A first-of-its-kind trading hub for black-owned wine enterprises will soon be built in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. This follows the signing of a lease agreement between the South African Wine Industry Transformation Unit (SAWITU) and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), owner of Nietvoorbij where the hub will be hosted.
Seeing a great need to secure a sustainable future for black-owned wine enterprises in the country, SAWITU secured the space as part of its greater mission to accelerate transformation in the wine industry.
Dubbed a first-of-its-kind brand home and growth booster for black wine entrepreneurs, the initiative is being described as crucial by various role players.
“These types of initiatives will drive transformation, enterprise development and skills development targets in the wine industry,” says Tshililo Ramabulana, chairperson of SAWITU.
Unique ethos and culture
Joyene Isaacs, chairperson of the ARC council, says it is important to explore opportunities for small and medium businesses using the existing assets and infrastructure of public entities and other government institutions.
“The agreement is a prime example of what can be accomplished by thinking out of the box. A partnership between the wine industry and the ARC shows what can be done.”
The wine-tasting and cellar complex was recently refurbished and transformed into a modern, multi-functional facility which echoes SAWITU’s vision for the brand home.
The upgrade, Isaacs points out, presented a valuable opportunity for SAWITU and the ARC to work together to help accelerate transformation of the wine industry through training, research and capacity development.
Although housed on the same premises as the ARC, the brand home promises to have its own ethos and culture that resonate with the entrepreneurs utilising the facility.
“We are indeed very excited to embark on this historic journey, to share knowledge and to learn from one another – both to enable growth within the wine industry and to benefit the broader South African society,” Isaacs says.
Greater business advantage
Wendy Petersen, operations manager at SAWITU, says the majority of black-owned wine brands and entrepreneurs don’t have a place to call their own and which resembles their identity. By collaborating with the ARC, SAWITU is creating that space for them.”
Petersen says the location is what attracted them to the venue.
Stellenbosch is a popular tourist town and well known for its established wine route and history. This gives emerging wine brands and entrepreneurs a greater business advantage, anchors them in an agritourism environment and makes them part of the South African wine industry history.
The historic building in which the new brand home will be located is surrounded by beautiful vineyards and overlooks the local community and nearby township, displaying two worlds so different, yet co-existing in the same space.
“We believe that the success of this initiative [will be] built on a firm foundation”, says Petersen. “It is also very important that we manage the expectations of the entrepreneurs and that we all understand the targets and deliverables.”
Meanwhile the Western Cape minister of agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, flagged the initiative as a great step towards ensuring economic recovery.
“Having a ‘home’ is very important for products like wine and to ensure sustainability of these businesses. SME participation in the value chains is also vital for economic growth and job creation,” Meyer told Food For Mzansi.
To complement this, the department of agriculture in the province, in collaboration with SAWITU, has also developed an e-commerce platform to be used for trading by these businesses, Meyer explained.
“This mechanism will enable these businesses to market their products throughout South Africa while also selling the products using [the on-site] platform. The initiative is aligned to one of my five priorities, market access, as it aims to boost sales from the participating businesses.”
The South African wine industry is perfectly positioned to deliver on national and provincial government priorities such as the earning of foreign revenue, job creation and rural development, Meyer pointed out.
However, agricultural producers and agribusiness firms in South Africa are faced with increasing competition in domestic and international markets.
A footprint in the local market
Meyer further explained, “With the successes of the wine industry, especially with exports amounting to R9.6 billion in 2020, there still exists a need to have active participation of black-owned brands in the domestic market, who largely depend on exports. This is largely attributed to saturation of the local market among other things.
“The dependence on the export market presents a huge risk for these businesses. A case in hand was the impact of Covid-19 regulations which resulted in a ban of wine exports.”
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