SOUTH AFRICA – Vinpro, a South African wine industry lobby organisation, said that wine production in the country is set to decline following the drought which has pushed down grape harvest.
According to Anton Smuts, chairperson of Vinpro, this year harvests are expected to hit a thirteen year low following the radical decline in production posted at the beginning of the year.
Smuts revealed that the 2019 wine grape harvest had just begun but major producing regions such as Robertson and the Olifants area recorded weak performance with the situation unlikely to change.
We didn’t think it would be worse than last year – the 2018 harvest was the lowest in 13 years – but it seems it will be.
You can see from the weights of the berries. That could be an asset for quality, more flavour, but we will have to see,” he said.
Smuts further added that the prospect of a lower harvest appeared to be the case in all the production areas, except the southern Cape since the Stellenbosch and Paarl areas boast of more irrigation waters enough to maintain or increase their last year production level.
The crippling drought has compelled the wine industry to consider better water efficiency techniques as wine farmers in Bonnievale, Robertson and Klein Karoo areas seek to ensure they sustain supply to the industry.
Vinpro was carrying out tests to establish the minimal amount of water a grape vine needed to survive.
Smuts said that undercutting of prices by some producers has also hit the industry which saw about 14% of SA’s bulk white wine sold for less than R4.50(US$.33) a litre, whereas bottled water was sold for about R5(US$.37) or R6(US$.44) a litre.
This had a damaging effect on the international price of South African wine which were trading much lower than competitors in France, Spain Chile and Argentina
The 2018 wine grape harvest was 1 238 000 tons, which was 14% smaller than that of 2017.
However, despite the decrease in grape harvest, the country posted a 4% increase in wine exports in 2018 generating US$700 million (R9.6 billion) which according to Wines of SA Chief Executive Officer, Siobhan Thompson, was attributed to an increased focus on packaged and bulk wine sales.
Vinpro is a non-profit making company representing about 2 500 South African wineries, cellars and industry stakeholders.