The alcohol industry is foaming at the mouth over government’s decision to, once again, ban liquor sales in a bid to curb the covid-19 outbreak in South Africa. While the industry has, thus far, backed government’s fight against the pandemic, they have raised concern over the “dire consequences” it will hold for businesses.
Two industry juggernauts, Vinpro and the South African Breweries (SAB), have lambasted government’s decision to prohibit the sale of alcohol for on-site and off-site consumption until Friday, 15 January 2021.
According to Vinpro the previous two booze sales bans had a devastating impact on the wine industry with a projected loss of more than R7.5 billion in sales revenue, coupled with significant job losses and the closure of several wineries and tourism facilities.
In the same breath, the SAB board says the beer industry has continuously supported government’s efforts to try and curb the coronavirus spread.
It, however, refuses to be labelled as “the problem child” and the root cause for the resurgence of the virus.
SAB now vows to exhaust all options and pursue every possible alternative to protect the livelihoods that depend on it.
“We cannot agree that our sector is continuously criminalised and called out as the significant contributor of the recent increase in cases in South Africa,” SAB says in a media release.
“Our industry, our colleagues and our families cannot be discriminated against. We judge this as not only unfair, but that it disregards the more than 125 years of effort and dedication we have delivered together.”
Consequences of booze ban
As it stands, the wine industry has more than 250 million litres of uncontracted wine with the 2021 harvest to commence within the next two weeks. This is expected to place further strain on wine businesses’ already dire financial position.
Vinpro says it proactively implemented preventative measures to protect employees and visitors to farms and the nation’s 533 wineries. It believes the third ban will do untold economic damage to the wine sector and the 290 000 livelihoods it supports.
Furthermore, wine farms are now getting the short end of the stick during the peak tourism season because of the blanket-policy approach, the behaviour of the public and non-compliance with covid-19 regulations.
“We share the president’s concern over the sudden and severe spike in covid-19 cases and related deaths and understand the need for drastic measures to address it, but we are disappointed and deeply concerned by the blanket approach with regard to alcohol trade that government has taken yet again to curb the spread,” says the managing director of Vinpro, Rico Basson.
“Many lessons have been learned from lockdown levels 5 and 4, including that the restriction of the legal trade of alcohol fuels the growth of the illicit market.
“This illicit market is outside the regulatory reach of government and operates uncontrolled. It leads to devastating consequences from a health and economic perspective.”
“We will continue to engage with government on what needs to be done to save lives and livelihoods as we work together to beat covid-19.”
Vinpro urges government to be transparent about the state of the health system over the next 14 days to enable an earliest possible review of the ban on retail and on-site consumption sales.
“We also call on government to enforce regulations to the teeth as it certainly does not help to impose harsh restrictions every time our healthcare system is in crisis while regulations are not enforced.
“We advise every wine-related business to do their part and work together now to help flatten the curve, so that we can resume trade after 15 January 2021. We also ask everyone out there to please download the covid-19 Alert SA app, as well as make use of the hotline to report any violation of the regulations on 0800 014 856. We will continue to engage with government on what needs to be done to save lives and livelihoods as we work together to beat covid-19. Let’s be part of the solution,” Basson says.