SA wine industry lobby organization Vinpro heads to court to fight booze ban

SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa’s Wine body, Vinpro has launched a court action to lift liquor ban in the country’s wine-making hub, Western Cape, citing that the region’s Covid-19 numbers are currently “dropping fast”.

“Vinpro is relieved that the numbers of new infections, active cases and hospital admissions are now dropping fast across the country, but particularly in the Western Cape. In these circumstances, the liquor ban is simply no longer justified in the Western Cape,” the organisation said in its latest statement.

The non-profit body representing South African wine producers, cellars and industry stakeholders, reiterates calls for national government to lift the liquor ban, but this time it is asking for the ban to at least be overturned in the Western Cape.

The organisation confirmed that it has taken the matter to the Western Cape High Court. It is expected to be heard on February 5.

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“Faced with the devastating impact that the third ban has had on the wine industry, Vinpro was left with no choice, but to approach the Cape High Court. (An) Urgent interim relief will be sought which would afford the Premier of the Western Cape the power to adopt deviations to enable off- and on-consumption sale of liquor in the province.

“Vinpro is relieved that the numbers of new infections, active cases and hospital admissions are now dropping fast across the country, but particularly in the Western Cape. In these circumstances, the liquor ban is simply no longer justified in the Western Cape.”

Vinpro

“Ultimately similar relief will be sought in respect of other provinces. The matter is set down for hearing on 5 February 2020,” Vinpro managing director Rico Basson said.

Basson further indicated that over the past year, the wine industry had worked tirelessly to be part of the solution as South Africa was gripped by the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.

“This included collaborating with government and proactively implementing preventative measures from farm to retail, to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of the people working throughout our value-chain and the broader community,” said Basson.

Despite continuous engagement with the government to curb the spread of the virus through the implementation of a risk-adjusted approach to re-opening the economy, and addressing the social ills of alcohol abuse through a social compact, the industry’s proposals were not taken into account when the third ban was introduced on 28 December 2020.

“The government has also not been transparent with us on justifying the continued ban, nor did they give any explanation or clarity on the timeline for a review of this ban. This makes planning and contingency plans impossible,” Vinpro said.

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With the commencement of the 2021 harvest, the industry now has more than 640 million litres of stock of which 300 million is uncontracted.

Vinpro, representing more than 2 500 members is the latest organisation to take government to court hoping to have the liquor ban overturned.

South African Breweries (SAB), which is owned by JSE-listed global brewing giant AB InBev, has also taken legal action.

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