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Wine farmers actually plead for sustainability

Jan 23 2015 16:10

Cape Town - An article entitled "Wine farmers plead poverty" has created a lively debate on Fin24 about the state of the wine industry in South Africa.

The article related to the Nedbank VinPro Information Day which took place in Cape Town on Thursday. At the event VinPro CEO Rico Basson said wine farmers and producers are simply not making enough money and are, therefore, not planting any new vines.

READ: Wine farmers plead poverty

In reaction to the article Basson wrote to say that he found the headline of the article misleading.

While the actual content of the article was indeed based on the presentations at the VinPro Day, the heading is out of context and misleading," said Basson.

"The VinPro Day featured critical discussions about matters aimed at improving the well-being of all industry stakeholders – such as government collaboration, land reform, the contribution of the wine industry to the gross domestic product (GDP) and job creation. It is unfortunate that a sensational heading sent out the wrong impression."

Another Fin24 user who reacted to the article is Elizma Botha, wine route manager of the Robertson Wine Valley.
"I must object to your heading on Friday morning’s article about the Vinpro Info Day that took place on Thursday. If anyone was ‘pleading’ anything, they were pleading for sustainability," wrote Botha.

"The numbers that one of the slides showed was that the current return on investment (ROI) for the primary producer is 2% (this is of course an average). This means that, if he took his investment to a bank, fire all his employees and sit on his backside all day long, he would still probably earn more from interest than by farming."

Botha said she understands that there is competition in the media to get articles read.

"But shame on you to add a heading that will flare up emotions - as you can already see by the comments made," she said.

The Fin24 headline was based on the fact that more than one speaker at the event referred to the industry not making money.

In his presentation Basson said wine farmers and producers are simply not making enough money and are therefore not planting any new vines.

VinPro chair Abrie Botha also joked in his welcoming address that it would be a miracle if one made money in the wine industry.

Botha in her response to Fin24 summarised the contents of the VinPro Day as follows:

- There are major risks for agriculture. Right now I think the major ones for the wine industry are power cuts that may stop wine production at critical times - and since the entire year’s income is based on the activities of the next three months, this is kind of important - and for certain areas - water;

- There are major opportunities in the wine industry. There are still so many markets that we can grow, and the wine industry is in the process of addressing all of these.

These include increasing the local market responsibly, increasing exports and developing wine tourism.

- The wine industry is seen as a privileged community, and therefore the responsibility lies with it to develop and introduce sustainable transformation projects that will actually develop the people and not just be used as window dressing.

READ: Young bloods stage SA wine revolution

- The wine industry (every member of it) needs to work together and be involved in all of these processes. A body like VinPro can initiate these projects, but cannot drive it.

- The Western Cape government has also recognised the opportunities for development and growth in the wine industry and would like to create a positive environment in which the industry can flourish.

"Why is it important? Well, in the Western Cape the fruit and wine industries are possibly the greatest job suppliers in the rural areas. They are in many cases a major roleplayer in keeping the rural economy afloat," explains Botha.

"If they grow - more vineyards, more sales, increased tourism numbers - everyone benefits."

Botha points out that this list is by far not covering everything and that there are many other discussions taking place in the wine industry on other platforms.

"But if you sweep all of the above off the table, at least remember the following comments made by Minister Alan Winde (paraphrasing of course): That we should start focusing on the positive for once and build momentum on that, rather than focusing on the negative all the time and sitting in a heap feeling sorry for ourselves," said Botha.

"The wine industry - producers, farm workers, marketers, bankers, suppliers - are putting in a lot of effort to make this country work, despite all of the negative comments and agendas of the rest."

Botha points out that the wine industry are making great efforts to invest in the industry - for instance, time away from their families -  and investing in growing the number of jobs in the industry by 100 000 in the next 10 years.

"And no, this is no election campaign. This is a target the wine industry set for itself and I, as only one of the current 168 000 people employed in the wine industry, am committed to that," she concludes.

ALSO READ: Big Chinese opportunity for W Cape winery

* Would you like to join the debate about the wine industry and its challenges and opportunities? Share your views and you could get published.

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyFin24 have been independently written by members of the Fin24 community. The views of users published on Fin24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent those of Fin24.

vinpro  |  wine  |  myfin24


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