South Africa’s wine industry heads to court to fight alcohol ban

PUBLISHED: Wed, 27 Jan 2021 16:39:46 GMT

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 27 (Reuters) – South Africa’s wine industry said on Wednesday it had asked a court to allow the main wine-growing region to exempt itself from a ban on the sale of alcohol that was reinstated last month to ease pressure on hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

VinPro, which represents wine producers and cellars, said it had approached the Western Cape High Court to seek interim relief from the ban which would allow the premier of the Western Cape to regulate the sale of liquor in the province.

“Although the liquor ban is intended to ensure that hospitals have the capacity to treat those who become ill, the pandemic affects provinces differently at any given point in time and capacity requirements in hospitals will therefore differ across the country,” the trade body said in a statement.

The case is expected to be heard in court next week.

In December, as COVID-19 infections surged, the government introduced its third ban on alcohol sales since the start of the pandemic, aimed at preventing alcohol-related injuries that could further strain hospitals..

South Africa has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 infections on the continent, with over 1.4 million reported cases and nearly 42,000 deaths.

South African Breweries, part of Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), is also challenging the alcohol ban in court.

VinPro said the restrictions on alcohol has resulted in the loss of more than 8 billion rand ($524 million) in sales, and threatened the closure of cellars and producers. It also warned of a lack of cellar space amid low demand and increased stock ahead of the new harvest season beginning this week.

“The industry now has more than 640 million litres of stock of which 300 million is uncontracted,” Vinpro added. “This poses a material risk of insufficient processing and storage capacity for the new harvest and threatens the sustainability of the wine industry.”

($1 = 15.2615 rand) (Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Pravin Char)

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