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Wine industry and the lockdown

The wine industry will be able to finish its harvesting season under the national lockdown.

The recently announced 21-day Covid-19 lockdown regulations have understandably created much worry within the agricultural sector, especially the wine industry.

But Vinpro and the Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, shed some light on the situation in the industry.

“I want to assure farmers and farmworkers that in terms of Regulation no 398 of the Disaster Management Act, 2002, the sector, being responsible for food security, has been declared as essential,” he said.

Vinpro will close all its offices in Paarl, Robertson and Worcester until 16 April. They will, however, remain open for business as they work remotely for the next few weeks. They also shared their input on the lockdown.

“Our interpretation of this amendment is that the wine industry will be allowed to complete the harvest and the necessary cellar processes to ensure the crop is not ‘wasted’,” Christo Conradie, Manager of Wine Cellars at Vinpro told Standard. “Agri-workers who are required to harvest grapes and/or to operate as cellar workers will be considered essential workers during the lockdown period.”

Vinpro also expressed its gratitude to the Minister of Agriculture.

“We’re truly very grateful for this outcome, and it gave us the necessary peace of mind on day 1 of lockdown, on a Friday right before the weekend,” Conradie said. “It will allow agri-workers to work optimally and bring in the last of the harvest.

“We would like to once again make a friendly, yet serious request, to everyone to continue to act responsibly. Against the background of a global crisis, which has already taken on traumatic proportions, and may not have manifested itself as a reality in our midst, to implement and execute this permit with due diligence. This applies specifically to each member of your team and to lead and manage the number of people who must work with the necessary judgment and consideration.”

Meyer said that enough food is available, and food distribution and logistics will ensure food security.

“So there is no need for food panic buying, as it creates distortions and artificial scarcities in the food supply sector. I am thankful for the excellent cooperation I have received from organised agriculture and for its commitment to protect and support farmers and farm workers in this period.”

Both Conradie and Meyer expressed their concerns surrounding the virus, and said that hygiene will be a focus in these coming times.

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