This article was originally published by SA Wine Industry on www.wineland.co.za. Read the original article here.

The wine industry welcomes the further re-opening of the economy, which was announced by President Ramaphosa during his national address on 17 June 2020. The president also specifically raised the issue of violence, especially gender-based violence, road accidents and reckless behaviour among South Africans due to alcohol abuse and the urgency with which the nation needed to re-examine its relationship with alcohol.

While the industry is painfully aware of the incredible hardship faced by our wine businesses due to previous restrictions on local sales and exports, the industry also acknowledges the harmful effects of alcohol abuse on individuals and in communities. Vinpro is, however, working closely with government and the rest of the liquor industry to address this through targeted interventions.

We outline some of the key developments and ongoing activities below.

Stabilising the industry

The total ban placed on the local sale of alcohol and e-commerce operations during the first nine weeks of the national lockdown has brought devastating economic repercussions across the sector as it has struggled to survive in the vacuum created during this time. Global uncertainty and challenges at ports further exacerbate export challenges.

A recent survey that Vinpro conducted among producers and cellars has confirmed our understanding of the serious impact of the lockdown on wine businesses and individuals. We know that the recovery process will most likely be long and arduous. As such, the Vinpro board has studied the survey results and commissioned the Vinpro management team to investigate strategic interventions to stabilise the South African wine value-chain at all levels.

Government deliberations

Vinpro, as part of a group representing the South African liquor industry, is engaging with Government on an ongoing basis regarding our trading terms, self-regulation, safety protocols and responsible trade.

Engagements, along with partners such as the Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) and South African Liquor Brand owners Association (SALBA), with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (dtic) yielded an agreement on the controlled resumption of alcohol trade under Level 3. It focused on reducing the risk of transmission in combating the current pandemic and working collectively towards a sustainable economy.

Vinpro has been meeting on a weekly basis with the dtic since the start of Level 3 on 1 June 2020 to monitor local liquor sales, responsible trading efforts and consumption.

Responsible actions and messaging

While the production, manufacturing and trading of liquor products have gradually been opened, the onus is now on us as an industry to drive change in the way we communicate, trade in, and consume alcohol. The driving force is simple: we cannot afford not to.

In his national address, president Ramaphosa said: “We need to draw the lessons from this lockdown and decide how we can protect our society from the abuse of alcohol. Certainly, we need to provide greater support to people with drinking problems, including through rehabilitation and treatment. We need to encourage responsible drinking, especially among young people. We need to be tough on liquor outlets that violate the terms of their licences and who sell alcohol to those [who are] underage. But we will also need to look at further, more drastic measures to curb the abuse of alcohol.”

Our aim as an industry is to initiate a new social compact – including stakeholders from the liquor industry and all three spheres of government – that will use measurable and evidence-based initiatives to bring about enormous social change to how alcohol is viewed and consumed in South Africa. This is within our reach if we act as a collective with the support of each wine business in the industry value-chain. – SA Wine Industry