VinPro, wine industry body, taking South African govt to court over alcohol ban

Internationally esteemed fine wine critic, Carrie Adams, chats to Mutle Mogase of VinPro. The national wine industry body announced this week that it is taking the SA government to court, in an effort to retract the ban on alcohol sales. Among VinPro’s demands, is for the prohibition in the Western Cape to be immediately lifted to recognise the steep dip in the province’s Covid-19 infections. – Jarryd Neves

Mutle Mogase on VinPro:

VinPro is a non-profit company originally a co-operative established solely for the benefit of members. Two and a half thousand members that are made up of producers, brand owners, sellers and pretty much most of the value chain in the wine business. They pay us a membership fee and we do a whole lot of things. One is obviously lobbying and liaising with government on developments in the industry. It is an agricultural product. So most of the dealings are with the Department of Agriculture. We also provide certain technical services [like] geosciences. So viticulture. Where there’s market failure in the wine industry we will provide those services, including new plant material and a software.

Mutle Mogase on taking the government to court:

The industry is about to take the government to court. Vinpro is obviously driving the whole process. The members are under pressure. Everyone understands the seriousness of Covid and accepts that something has to be done to control Covid. But I think the approach probably hasn’t worked for the industry and puts a lot of other lives at risk, through the loss of income and the closure of businesses. Therefore, you’ve got to look at the post Covid and current Covid situation. You’re going to sit with a situation where a lot of businesses have been destroyed – jobs permanently gone, especially in the rural areas.

Carrie Adams on Cyril Ramaphosa:

 If I was Cyril Ramaphosa, I’m not sure I’d know what to do either. It really does boil down to being sensible. He’s sort of damned if he does and he’s damned if he doesn’t.

Mutle Mogase on what he would do:

It’s about finding a balance, the correct balance. One of the things that the industry has proposed was keep the curfew and get the alcohol back to the Monday to Thursday sales, so that everyone is kept in business. The jobs are kept. That’s really what it’s about. The balance is extremely important.

Mutle Mogase on the sale of alcohol:

It’s got to be physical. If you look at the wine industry in the Western Cape. The wine business – including the whole value chain – accounts for about 10% of the Western Cape GDP. So you need those wine farms to keep operating. A lot of their farms are really small farms and don’t have the infrastructure to distribute. They’re completely dependent on people coming on site. That’s quite an important piece. Half of the wineries (45%) have on-site restaurants. So that’s a very important distribution methodology to keep the business going.

Mutle Mogase on the illicit black market trade:

The problem is that you’re changing the moral fibre of society and that’s got long-term implications. It’s not good at all for anyone, but also for the fiscus. We collect – on behalf of the fiscus – obviously the taxes, customs and excise duty is quite an important part of it. And obviously, for making profits, we pay income taxes here. So once you go illicit, all of that stuff disappears.

For instance, [take] New Year’s Eve. Everyone had alcohol – most people had alcohol. Everyone had access to alcohol. How they got it? No one knows, but that’s a fact.

Read VinPro’s statement here.

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