The national lockdown in response to the covid-19 pandemic has nearly decimated the wine tourism industry, said the Western Cape minister of agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, during the announcement of the employee relief scheme today.
Through partnership, Meyer’s department and Vinpro have now established the Wine Tourism Worker Support Stipend (WTWSS) aimed at safeguarding the continuous employment of wine tourism workers. It offers a temporary salary subsidy in the peak tourism months of December 2020 and January and February 2021.
The road to economic recovery will, however, be turbulent, said Meyer. Stakeholders hope the multi-million rand relief fund will alleviate current pressures experienced in the wine tourism industry.
“This is an opportunity for us to support our workers,” said Meyer. “We have reached the end of the year. People are fatigued, but now we can lift their heads up again. The wine industry, as subsection of the agricultural sector, plays a significant role in the economy.”
“Despite the alcohol industry being fully optimal under level 1 of lockdown, challenges still exist within the wine industry,” said Vinpro’s manager of wine cellars, Christo Conradie.
“Approximately 100 million litres that we have not sold in 14 weeks are still sitting in cellars. In a normal year, we sell 350 litres of wine in the local market and export 320 million litres. We are currently sitting with 300 million litres of uncontracted stock in cellars. The road to recovery will not be an easy one to navigate.”
95% of SA wineries based in Cape
Partnerships, he stressed, are critical in the path towards overcoming current challenges while initiatives such as the WTWSS will prove to be crucial going forward.
“Currently the wine industry is in a crisis. There will always be five or ten percent who are flourishing and those on the extreme left who are suffering. Being in-between on the spectrum is not a nice place to be in terms of revenue and cashflow. We need all the support we can get.”
The local wine industry, and specifically wine tourism, is the agricultural sector hardest hit by covid-19 restrictions.
With 98% of the country’s wineries located in the Western Cape, the provincial government has earmarked the wine industry as a crucial subsection in the economic recovery of the province, Meyer revealed.
“When covid-19 came it had a massive impact on the wine industry and, per definition, in the industry of workers. Our contribution goes towards alleviating the impact the loss of income has had on the wine tourism industry and its workers.
Meyer added, “We are confident that this contribution will bring relief and dignity to workers within the wine agri-tourism industry. We have prioritised agri-tourism as part of the economic recovery in the Western Cape.”
The minister’s sentiments were echoed by the Western Cape head of agriculture, Dr Mogale Sebopetsa, who clarified that “the aim is to subsidise wineries in our province to ensure that a total of 1333 jobs are maintained for the next 90 days.”
Sebopetsa said, “We are totally convinced that the contribution of R12 mil will ensure that jobs are maintained, people on farms are secure and most importantly ensuring the dignity of our citizens. Given this very difficult time in the lives of people we are excited that we could make this contribution.”
Applications close on 15 December 2020
Applications for funding have been made available and wineries are invited to submit employer registrations and employee claims forms until 15 December 2020, said Vinpro’s wine tourism manager, Marisah Niewoudt.
“They have a month to submit applications. In January we will go through the screening process to make sure that women, the disabled and youth are equally represented as the beneficiaries of funds,” she says.
The local wine industry, and specifically wine tourism, is without a doubt the agricultural sector hardest hit by covid-19 restrictions, said Nieuwoudt.
“We are truly grateful to minister Meyer and his team for their support of the South African wine industry, and the wine tourism sector in particular, by securing this funding for our employees.”
- Employer application claim forms can be downloaded here. Completed forms should be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. A stipend of R 3 000 will be allocated to existing permanent employees for three consecutive months. Wineries must apply on behalf of their employees. Payment will be directly to wineries at the end of the three-month period. The stipend is not limited to members of Vinpro only.