Wine exports hit high as harvest beats global slump

With little happy news on the Western Cape agricultural front of late, a report to hand from Wines of South Africa (WoSA) says SA’s wine exports hit record highs last year as poor harvests in rival nations boosted demand for the country’s brands.

Overseas sales reached 417m litres last year, 10m more than the previous high in 2008. The figure is a 17% increase on last year, WoSA added.

This year could also see booming exports with early signs pointing to another strong harvest, according to WoSA CEO Su Birch.

“At this stage, all indications are that this year’s local crop could be the third-biggest in recorded history,” said Birch. “The anticipated crop size is despite a decrease in total plantings, thanks to one of the best winter seasons in the Western Cape for many years.”

Smaller harvests in other wine-producing nations such as New Zealand, Australia and Europe affected production last year, and put global output at its lowest level in 37 years, according to one study. Last week, Constellation Brands CEO Rob Sands warned a rise in grape prices due to the smaller harvest that will affect the whole industry.

WoSA said non-packaged wine accounted for 59% of South Africa’s exports last year, but demand for packaged output is growing in North America, Japan, China, and some affluent African nations.