South Africa’s 2020 Wine Grape Crop News

3 April 2020.


South Africa’s 2020 wine grape crop is expected to yield exceptional wines.

The industry is busy harvesting the last few thousand tonnes across eight of its 10 wine regions, thanks to a last-minute concession from the South African Government to continue harvest and winemaking activities during the country’s COVID-19 lockdown from 26 March until 16 April 2020.

According to an estimate released by the industry body SAWIS (SA Wine Industry Information & Systems) in the third week of March, viticulturists and cellar producers expected the wine grape crop to be only somewhat larger than a small 2019 wine grape crop, but still smaller than the five year average of 1.36 million tonnes.

“Although there is great variation in crop size due to the geographic distribution of the South African wine industry, the estimated crop size can in general be attributed to smaller berry sizes, the prevalence of botrytis rot and ongoing drought in certain areas,” says Conrad Schutte, manager of the wine industry body Vinpro’s viticultural consultation services.

The occurrence of wind during the growing and ripening periods in certain regions contributed to smaller berries, which gave rise to lighter crops and lower juice recoveries. “Smaller berries also have greater flavour and colour concentrations, which will be reflected in exceptional quality in the wines,” Conrad says.

While the ongoing drought in the Klein Karoo region still had a negative effect on the crops recovered in this region, the Olifants River region that was hit particularly hard by the drought in previous years, did surprisingly well thanks to moderate ripening conditions, adaptations in cultivation techniques and vineyards that have recovered better than expected.

 Harvest may continue, but sales banned

When the South African Government published its COVID-19 lockdown regulations on 25 March 2020, all wine industry activities were prohibited, including the production, distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages (which includes local sales and exports) from midnight on 26 March until midnight on 16 April 2020.

However, through advocacy by various industry bodies, Government made a last-minute concession just hours before midnight on 26 March 2020 that “harvesting and storage activities essential to prevent the wastage of primary agricultural goods” would be regarded as essential services that may continue during the lockdown.

Vinpro, the representative body for close to 2 500 South African wine grape producers, wineries and wine-related businesses, said that the industry is grateful to Government for the concession and called on its members to adhere to the regulations, including strict hygiene controls during transport and in the workplace, as well as ensuring that all staff members are in possession of the necessary permits to travel for work purposes.

Meanwhile local sales, exports and the distribution of alcoholic beverages are still prohibited during the lockdown, including the delivery of online wine orders.

“We have a full grasp of the severity of the global COVID-19 pandemic and support President Cyril Ramaphosa on his decision to take extreme measures to ensure the nation’s safety,” says Vinpro MD Rico Basson. “However, the ban on exports and capacity constraints at our main ports will especially have a significant effect on the survival of the South African wine industry, and more importantly, the livelihood of the close to 300 000 persons employed by the value-chain.”

Around half of South Africa’s wine production is exported. Vinpro, SA Liquor Brand Owners Association (SALBA) and Wines of South Africa (WoSA) have put together an Exporters Task Team to strengthen ongoing deliberations with Government, which they hope to resolve before the weekend.

Difficult times drive collaboration

South African wine grape producers are innovative and have done a lot over the past few years to adapt to various difficult situations including changing weather patterns, a challenging economic climate and political uncertainty.

The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has once again showed how the South African agricultural community has come together, determined to continue the harvest in difficult circumstances and with restrictions to bring in the last grapes for 2020

“In these unusual conditions producers and agri-workers have set the example of what this Rainbow Nation embodies by acting swiftly to implement extra security measures and making sure they comply with the regulations as stipulated by Government,” Rico says.

South Africa offers exceptional quality

Despite a myriad of challenges the industry has faced, WoSA CEO, Siobhan Thompson says one of the most heartening elements for the South African wine industry has been the increased recognition the country has seen for the quality of its wines.

Whether it be in ratings from the likes of Tim Atkin MW, or top scores from international competitions such as the International Wine & Spirit Competition and Decanter World Wine Awards, she says South African wines have consistently shown stylistic flair and exceptional quality which resonates with wine drinkers across the globe.

“Our focus is still on the premiumisation of our wines, across the board,” Siobhan says. “While our offering is still extremely competitive in the global market place, our producers have realised that they have been underselling themselves and in order to level the playing field, we have had to increase our pricing to bring it in line with that of our competitors. We’ve upped our game in terms of quality and it is therefore only to be expected that our pricing needs to follow this trend.”

While the COVID-19 outbreak may have major effects on not only the wine industry, but many others, there is likely to be a major shift in the way the industry does business. Virtual tastings may become the new normal as producers turn to online applications such as Zoom and Houseparty to engage with their importers, agents and even their consumers across the globe.

Siobhan believes this will allow the South African wine industry to increase its reach and could potentially lead to a rise in new markets that have been previously unexplored. “We need to embrace this change and see the opportunity that lies ahead.”

“As an industry, we have always remained positive, and will continue to do so, despite our current challenges. Once normality returns and we are back to business as usual, our producers will be ready to continue with the sale and promotion of South African wine and hopefully, in years to come, we will remember this period as one that gave us the time for introspection, to regroup and to come back even stronger than we were before,” Siobhan says.

 The official 2020 South African Wine Harvest Report will be issued on 5 May 2020.




Wanda Augustyn

Tel: +27 (0)82 806 4075




Maryna Calow

Tel: +27 (0)84 477 4645


SA Cheese Festival cancelled over corona virus

16 March 2020.

The biggest outdoor culinary event in Africa, the 2020 South African Cheese Festival, has been cancelled due to the national ban on gatherings of more than 100 people. The popular festival would be held for the 19th time this year from Saturday 25 to Monday 27 April 2020 at Sandringham outside Stellenbosch.

The Council of Agri-Expo, the organiser of the SA Cheese Festival, has consulted widely with provincial government and other stakeholders over the past week in the face of growing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. Johan Ehlers, Chief Executive Officer of Agri-Expo, thanked the festival’s partners, exhibitors and supporters for their understanding and patience. “The SA Cheese Festival annually provides a platform for cheesemakers and entrepreneurs from across the country to showcase their products to up to 30 000 festival goers. The cancellation of the SA Cheese Festival will have a definite economic impact.”

All paid tickets will be reimbursed by Computicket with ticket holders who will be contacted directly by Computicket. The 20th SA Cheese Festival will take place from Saturday 24 to Monday 26 April 2021 at Sandringham outside Stellenbosch. For more information, visit or contact Agri-Expo on 021 975 4440 or


Isabeau Botha

Corporate Communication Manager
021 975 4440 / 072 247 5868

African Centre for Biodiversity News

4 March 2020. More toxic GM crops & food for SA; Ineffective GM drought tolerant maize pushed on Kenya and Uganda! Read more…

SA: Wheel is turning for wine grape producers

10 February 2020.

South African wine grape producers’ financial viability is looking up following a long downward cycle; however there is still a long road towards sustainability.

According to a survey by the wine industry body Vinpro, 28% of the participating wine grape producers made a profit in 2019, compared to only 15% in 2015. The industry’s average return on investment also increased during this period from less than 1% in 2015 to 4.83% in the 2019 harvest year.

The average South African wine grape producer earned a net farming income of R20 617/ha in 2019, 37% higher than in 2018. Although the average production costs, which include cash expenditure and provision for replacement, were 7% higher than in 2018 at R51 821/ha, the gross farming income increased by 14% to R72 439/ha.

“Although these figures are encouraging, it’s important to note that nearly one third of our producers are still not profitable,” says Vinpro’s agricultural economist Pierre-André Rabie. This means that cash expenditure could most probably be covered, but producers would not be able to provide for replacement of capital items and entrepreneurial remuneration. This can clearly be seen in an ageing area under vines and limited new plantings.

The set net farming income for sustainable wine grape farming of R34 000/ha is also still substantially higher than the current industry average.

Producers in the majority of the regions received higher prices for their grapes; however when taking real price inflation over time into consideration, producers would have to continue to receive good prices for some time before vineyard replacement could really commence. “Total plantings will probably decrease by a further 5 000 to 7 000 ha before the area under vines starts stabilising,” Pierre-André says.

It is important to note that there is significant variation within regions and between the respective business models.

Vineyards are ageing

 Pierre-André says an ageing area under vines and accompanying lower production levels could be a cause for concern for brand owners. It is the first time in 16 years the participants’ area under vines that are younger than three years made up less than 10% of the total area under vines. On the other hand 20% of participants’ vineyards were older than 20 years (a first since 2003). “Improved farm gate prices definitely contributed to producers being able to maintain production in struggling vineyards, but some vineyards are just too old and we might see significant shortages in certain varieties over the next few years.”

He says wine grape producers and brand owners now have the opportunity to enter into long-term supply contracts that would be mutually beneficial. “It would also make sense for brand owners to source grapes from a variety of geographic locations, specifically also irrigation areas, as a buffer for production volatility due to rainfall patterns. The latest techniques also enable wine grape producers to cultivate high quality grapes for a variety of wine goals across all wine grape growing areas,” Pierre-André says.

Road to recovery longer for some

“The wine industry is cyclical and the wheel is turning; in some areas just faster than others,” Pierre-André says. “It is encouraging that higher prices have helped improve the profitability of the average producer and although there were really great achievers in most regions, we also saw producers across the industry who continue to experience financial pressure.”

The Little Karoo, Swartland and Olifants River regions were hit hard by the drought and/or the after-effects of the drought in the past two or more years.

“A financial drought always follows a physical drought, and many businesses would need good rainfall, decent yields and time to recover. We see, for example, that the effects of the 2018 price hikes only started manifesting last year, and spending patterns, which are affected by cash-flow, will also adapt to this over time,” Pierre-André says.

About the Vinpro Production Plan Survey

 The Vinpro Production Plan Survey is conducted annually among South African wine grape producers to obtain a reliable benchmark regarding the average profitability at primary level, while sharing best practice. A total of 260 wine grape producers participated in the 2019 survey, which represented close to 27% of the total area under vines and 26% of the country’s total wine grape production.

A comprehensive article with more detailed results and trends will be published in the May issue of WineLand.



Wanda Augustyn

Vinpro Communications Manager

Tel: 021 276 0458



5 February 2020. Join the conversation – Agriculture 2020 and Beyond

The 2020 agriculture calendar kicks off at AFRICA AGRI TECH where future trends and technology come under the spotlight. This 3-day conference line-up, presented by Landbouweekblad, AFGRI, Grobank, and Farmer’s Weekly will explore sustainability, future farming tools and focus on the economy.

Come listen, come explore, come network, and meet and mingle with captains of industry. The three-day bumper speaker line-up appears below. Online and automatic registration is available on the event website. For your convenience, we have inserted quick links. Register at

Date: Tuesday 18 – Thursday 20 February 2020
Venue: Sun Arena, Time Square, Menlyn Maine, Pretoria
Cost: 3-Day inclusive package: R3 000.00 (excl. VAT) lunch and refreshments included
1-Day subscription rate R1 250.00 (excl. VAT) lunch and refreshments included
Online registration now open at
The online registration portal will automatically raise and e-mail your invoice.
Trade Visitor
Want to visit and not attend the conferences? Register as a trade visitor at no charge here:

Africa Energy Indaba

3 February 2020. 3 – 4 March 2020, Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town.

The Africa Energy Indaba Conference will discuss, debate and seek solutions to enable adequate energy generation across the continent. Delegates, drawn from all continents, represent an unrivalled combination of industry experts, project developers, financiers, energy users, government officials and manufacturers.

The conference also provides with the exciting side events listed below:

  • Africa Gas Forum
  • Indaba Energy Leaders Dialogue 2020
  • Ministerial Roundtable & CEO Roundtables
  • Women in Energy Conference & Future Energy Leaders Conference
  • World Energy Council Africa Regional Meeting

For more information on the conference and online registration please visit our website: