SOUTH AFRICA – The wine industry has the potential to create 100,000 new jobs over the next decade, provided it remains stable, wine producers’ body VinPro says.

The number of people employed directly or indirectly in the wine industry has increased to slightly more than 275,000, from fewer than 160,000 in 2000, and now represents 1.5% of the workforce in the economy.

But the industry has been rocked by a wave of labour unrest in recent years and faces uncertainty because of government’s land reform.

Speaking on Thursday at a conference organised by VinPro and Nedbank to look at the unique challenges facing the wine industry, VinPro CEO Rico Basson said there needed to be a social contract in the wine industry, which included the industry, labour and government.

He said at present local producers were not making enough money, which discouraged them from planting new vines.

SA’s nearly 100,000ha of vineyards generates about 3% of the world’s wine production, putting it in the top 10 largest producers.

Western Cape economic opportunities MEC Alan Winde told the conference that land reform was as much of a threat to the wine industry as the present energy crisis. He said land reform and labour unrest were the biggest risks facing the industry and the broader agricultural sector.

He called for land reform to be speeded up as it created uncertainty in the agricultural sector.

The tardiness of land redistribution has at times led to sporadic land occupations around the country and to tension on farms.

Last year labour organisations warned Zimbabwe-style invasions could become “inevitable” if farm evictions persisted and farmers resisted change in land ownership.

Some wine farms in the Western Cape were last year hit by a wave of labour unrest as unions claimed that farm workers were being evicted as owners feared land reform proposals announced by Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti.

The minister proposed that long-term farm workers be given a 50% equity share of the farms on which they worked.

Nedbank group managing executive for retail and business banking Philip Wessels told Business Day on the sidelines of the conference that the wine industry wanted a resolution to the labour unrest on farms and was taking the demands of the workers seriously.

“We are doing our bit to finance farmers and provide banking services for them so that they can create more jobs,” he said.

VinPro consultation service manager Francois Viljoen expected a good harvest this year although it was unlikely that 2013’s record harvest would be surpassed.

The grape harvesting season usually stretches from November to the end of April.

In the 2013 season, a record total harvest of 1.48-million litres of wine, juice and grape concentrate for nonalcoholic consumption was produced. This was 5.4% higher than the 2012 crop and 4.8% up on the previous record set in 2008.

“So far so good … early indications of harvests look good, with good grape analysis. We are, however, concerned about the forecasted heat waves.

“But in most wine regions we have irrigation water available. We can manage the heat to a certain extent with good irrigation management practices.”

February 4, 2015;