Cape Town - South Africa is mulling retaliatory measures to
protect its centuries-old wine industry and counter job losses caused by a
British retailers’ move to buy the product in bulk rather than in bottles, a
trade official said.
British retailers including Tesco and J Sainsbury are bottling the bulk wine themselves,
leading so far to as many as 700 job losses in South Africa, said Stephen
Hanival, chief director of agro-processing at the Department of Trade and
“We certainly hope that the developments on bulk wine don’t
lead to any kind of trade war between either South Africa, the UK or any of the
European Union countries with whom we trade extensively,” Hanival told
reporters late on Wednesday.
“However, South Africa does have a responsibility to protect
its trade interests. Our view is that this is a serious risk to the South
African wine industry,” he said.
The bulk buying helps British retailers save costs and
package the products in ways that may be more appealing for local customers.
According to the Department of Trade and Industry, last year
South Africa imported R1.7bn of British whisky. It exported wine valued at
R993m to Britain during the same period, a significant trade imbalance, which
Hanival suggested could be exploited to South Africa’s advantage.
“Why shouldn’t South Africa be importing bulk whisky from
the UK and bottling it locally, so that we can at least attempt to prevent some
of the job losses that we’ve seen up to now spreading to other parts of the
economy,” he said.
South Africa’s wine industry currently employs around 275
000 workers and has seen exports grow more than 200% between 1998 and 2010,
with the major markets including Britain and other countries in the European
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