Business Day today quotes Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies that “the government is making some headway in getting China to open its huge market to South Africa’s value-added goods such as wines and not just to raw materials.” After a DTI exhibition in the Middle Kingdom in 2011 Rob claims “there have been R400m-worth of confirmed orders for value-added products, the biggest being wine.” Meanwhile SAWIS reports exports to China last year were down 7% from 5.5 to 5.1 million litres. So unless the wine component was all Johann Krige’s Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage, R400m looks optimistic. If this is “starting to make headway” then Rob should apply to run WOSA who last year famously claimed exports of bottled wine were on the up when it was the opposite, actually.
Meanwhile cracks have opened in WOSA top management with chuckling communications czar Andre Morgenthal quoted in this week’s Financial Mail as “having reservations” about the current boom in exports of bulk wine. Seems that in Europe, 15% of non-SA bulk can be added and still called Product of SA, playing havoc with quality and Andre’s job prospects which depends on export levies. Three weeks ago, Andre’s boss, WOSA CEO Su Birch, declared WOSA was not against bulk shipments.
A controversial sentiment echoed in the FM by Vinpro CEO Rico Basson who says “I am not that negative about bulk wine [as] exports are rising.” Real MBAspeak. But with farmers unimpressed with both WOSA and Vinpro over the foisting of political opportunism on them in the shape of WIETA, the inaccurately named ethical trading initiative, it is incredible to see Su is still punting the discredited initiative in the columns of Decanter magazine in reaction to the current wave of farm worker strikes. A Calitzdorp ostrich would be proud.
“The South African wine industry, through its support of the Wine and Agricultural Industry Ethical Association (WIETA), and also Fairtrade, is working hard to ensure the ethical treatment of workers.” Oops, that support was withdrawn by Vinpro at least, in November. Or perhaps Su didn’t notice.
But the floating sub-editorial trophy goes to Business Day with the front page headline this morning “warning of ‘irreparable damage to brand SA‘ amid strike turmoil” with “brand” translating into “fire” from Afrikaans, the lingua franca of SA wine.