South Africa’s wine industry battles for partial lifting of alcohol sales ban

South Africa’s wine industry has asked a court of law to allow the main wine-growing region to exempt itself from an alcohol sales ban that was reinstated last month by the government to ease pressure on hospitals battling a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

VinPro, the representative of wine producers and cellars, said it had approached the Western Cape High Court to seek a temporary lift of the ban which would allow the premier of the Western Cape to regulate the sale of liquor in the province.

“Although the liquor ban is intended to ensure that hospitals have the capacity to treat those who become ill, the pandemic affects provinces differently at any given point in time and capacity requirements in hospitals will therefore differ across the country,” the trade body said in a statement.

The case is expected to be heard in court next week.

President Cyril Ramaphosa reinstated the alcohol sales ban for a third time since the start of the pandemic to prevent alcohol-related injuries that could further strain hospitals.

South Africa has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 infections on the continent, with over 1.4 million reported cases and nearly 42,000 deaths.

South African Breweries, part of Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), is also challenging the alcohol ban in court.

VinPro said the restrictions on alcohol has resulted in the loss of more than $524 million in sales, and threatened the closure of cellars and producers. It also warned of a lack of cellar space amid low demand and increased stock ahead of the new harvest season beginning this week.

“The industry now has more than 640 million litres of stock of which 300 million is uncontracted,” Vinpro added. “This poses a material risk of insufficient processing and storage capacity for the new harvest and threatens the sustainability of the wine industry.”

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