Cape Town - South Africa on Thursday said it wants to avoid
a tit-for-tat alcohol import war with Britain over increased bulk wine sales
that have cost jobs in the local bottling industry.
The "very fraught issue" was raised in a meeting
between Trade Minister Rob Davies and visiting British business secretary Vince
"We pointed out that what's good for exports is good
for imports but we don't want to go in for a tit-for-tat process if we can
avoid it," said Davies, who had earlier warned of possible retaliatory
action on whisky imports.
The trend toward bulk wine sales which is a growing
commercial move by importers has cost about 1,000 jobs in the local bottling
But South Africa has been upset by the British government
funded study that said mass sales were a greener trade option for imports from
the long haul supplier to its biggest foreign wine buyer.
The meeting won a pledge by Cable that London would not back
the argument as trade policy.
"It would be completely wrong to incorporate into trade
policy, these ideas around food miles," he said, adding he was making
"it absolutely clear that we're not going there".
Pretoria said it had requested a joint engagement with
supermarkets and Cable, who described the issue of wine in plastic containers
as opposed to bottles as a "very fraught issue", agreed that a
dialogue was needed.
"We do need to have a proper dialogue with the
industry, with the wholesalers and supermarkets so they understand the social
implications of what they would regard as commercial decisions and we need to
talk to them about how we can mitigate that possibly," he said.
"It's not a government issue but they need to be aware
of the consequences."
Increasing bulk imports were a commercial phenomenon with
most Australian wine also arriving in containers in Britain and other parts of
Europe, he said.
Davies said Pretoria did not want "a bulk import
war" which would be avoided with the engagement with buyers and a
consistent policy message from Britain.
"I think there may not be a need for us to take a
corresponding steps on whisky and gin but it's always something in the
background," he said.
Last month, South Africa exported 85.7 million litres of
wine to Britain.
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