SA wine exports showcase resilient performance despite operational, economic hurdles faced in 2021

SOUTH AFRICA – Despite being negatively impacted by a series of local alcohol sales bans, global freight and localised port issues, and a shortage of glass and packaging materials, export volumes of South African wine recovered to a healthier volume of 388-million litres, fetching R10.2-billion (US$675m) in 2021.

This was revealed by the South African non-profit promotional agency Wines of South Africa (WoSA), indicating that in 2020 the exported volumes amounted to 319 million litres, a decline from 320 million litres traded in 2019, as the industry battled the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Post- pandemic era in 2018, South Africa exported 420 million litres of wine valued at R9.1 billion (US$602m).

Despite exporting more wine in 2018 compared to 2021, South Africa fetched higher prices for the commodities in the latter period, as the global shortage of wine bolstered prices.

The UK was South Africa’s biggest market for wine exports – both in terms of volume of 92.5 million litres and value of R2.5 billion (US$165m).

Exports to the region showed good growth with a 10% increase in volume and a 25% increase in the value of packaged wine; despite earlier fears about a negative impact brought about by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

This growth was mainly seen in the independent and specialist wine sector, as well as in high-end multiple grocers.

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“The UK market has been very supportive of South Africa’s wine industry during one of the toughest times it has ever faced and this can be seen in the growth of our exports,” WoSA said.

Europe’s big appetite for South African wine keeps industry afloat

Germany was the country’s second-largest export market. Its volumes remained consistent with the previous year at 65.2 million litres, but the value declined by a percent to R1.2 billion (US$79m).

Along with Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden also remained largely stable. This is a positive, given the harsh lockdown measures in these countries which had a direct impact on trading conditions, WoSA said.

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Meanwhile China’s trade war with Australia opened up opportunities for South Africa to export both packaged and bulk wine to that market.

The volume of exports to China more than doubled to 13.8 million litres., growing the value of these exports by 59% to R458 million (US$30m).

Both Canada and the US also reflected a more than double rise in volume exports, mostly from bulk exports.

The value of exports to the US climbed 39% to R887 million (US$58m). While the value of exports to Canada climbed 31% to R657 million (US$43.5m).

“African markets have also shown excellent recovery in 2021, with export volumes exceeding pre-Covid levels. Markets driving this growth are Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Further market insights show that this will continue in the future as the market expands,” highlighted WoSA.

Despite the positive growth, packaged wine exports were impacted by packaging supply issues – mainly due to a shortage of glass and other packaging materials, container shortages and localised issues at ports.

But packaged exports still managed to grow 6.7% to 145.6 million litres in terms of volume and by 9.2% to R7.8 billion (US$516m) in terms of value.

Bulk wine still accounts for the biggest share of SA wine exports by volume, up by over a third (33.6%) to 242.6 million litres. Its value increased nearly a quarter (23.1%) to R2.4 billion (US$158.9m).

White wines were most popular, driven by demand for Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, WoSA said.

Moreover, traditional-method sparkling wine – Cap Classique, rocketed 40% in volume in 2021 and is steadily gaining traction in a competitive segment, which is shared with champagne, prosecco and cava.

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