South Africa’s wine exports hit new heights

South Africa’s 2012 exports reached 417 million litres, the largest amount that the country has exported to date and 10 million litres more than the previous record, according to Wines of South Africa (Wosa) the generic body for the South African wine industry.

Wosa says 2012 exports saw a 17% increase on volumes in 2011. The record levels are the result of a more favourable currency, as well as the global shortage of wines, stemming from a drop in the recent harvests of competitor wine-producing nations in Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand.

Wosa CEO Su Birch, said: “While bulk (non-packaged) exports accounted for 59% of volumes in 2012, this is in line with a growing global trend. Over the past decade, bulk wine exports from the major New World wine-producing countries had risen from around 20% to more than half of wine volumes traded, against the background of protracted recessionary market conditions. The reality we face also confronts Australia, Chile, Argentina and even New Zealand."

She said while packaged wines generally offered higher returns, local producers had been forced to accept that to compete globally, they had to provide what the mainstream markets wanted. "Obviously we would prefer the accent to be on packaged wines in terms of job retention in the packaging industry and also to maintain sustainable profit margins for producers. We are therefore greatly encouraged by the recent growth of packaged exports to North America, Japan, China, as well as several increasingly affluent African nations, all to regions where we have been increasing our marketing investment."

SA Wine Industry & Information Systems (SAWIS) has anticipated that the 2013 wine grape crop should amount to 1,384,357 tons. Birch said: “At this stage, all indications are that this year's local crop could be the third biggest in recorded history. This is assuming that good weather conditions continue, there is a speedy and peaceful resolution to the farmworker strikes and harvests come in on time. The anticipated crop size is despite a decrease in total plantings, thanks to one of the best winter seasons in the Western Cape for many years."

Birch said that while the industry regretted the current labour unrest in the Western Cape, huge strides were being made to ensure decent working conditions on all wine-producing farms. "The local Fairtrade office has confirmed that South Africa now has the highest number of Fairtrade-accredited wineries worldwide, with 65% of Fairtrade wines sold globally coming from our country."