The wine industry body Vinpro has welcomed the announcement that the National Ports Authority was now an independent subsidiary of Transnet. This is crucial, believes Vinpro, because Mzansi’s port terminals have become an obstacle to economic recovery during the Covid-19 pandemic
“This would entail a clear separation between the roles of the infrastructure owner, the Transnet national port authority, the terminal’s management and Transnet’s port terminals,” says Vinpro managing director Rico Basson.
“It means that all the entities will now operate more independently and more efficiently, with the added advantage that the private sector can work together and join hands with government to put this vision into practice.”
This week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the subsidiary would have its own board, which will be appointed by minister of public enterprises Pravin Gordhan.
Ramaphosa says, “This is part of government’s ongoing effort to reposition and transform state-owned enterprises so that they can be profitable, sustainable and competitive and can play a developmental role in our economy.”
Maintaining port infrastructure
Meanwhile, Vinpro says it is pleased that the revenue generated will be poured back into updating and maintaining port infrastructure, the replacement of old equipment and the renewal and expansion of the ports.
“The Cape Town port is of strategic importance to the wine industry and is one of the busiest international shipping routes,” Basson says.
South African wine exports represent almost half of its total production and amounted to 330.2 million litres in the year ended 28 February 2021, representing a 6% growth in volume year on year.
“Of these exports, 41% are packaged wine and 59% bulk wine. The United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA and Sweden are the top 5 markets for South African wine, with a total export value of approximately R9 billion, the second highest of any SA agricultural product,” he adds.
The wine industry, however, is still experiencing operational challenges at the Cape Town port. This includes not only exports, but imports and the unloading of package materials such as wine bottles for the current season.
Delays put harvest at risk
“We cannot afford any delay as it would have a ripple effect on the distribution of the 2021 harvest, as well as the export of wine, which especially has to be prioritised now during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer months,” Basson says.
“A lack of equipment and manpower, delays due to bad weather, congestion as a result of inefficiencies and the fact that container vessels are passing the port as it is not functioning optimally are some of the strategic challenges that the South African wine industry is currently experiencing in terms of exports.”