The South African wine industry is the 9th largest producer of wine in the world and contributes 4% to global production. South Africa exports 440 million litres of wine annually and sells 400 million litres locally.
A survey conducted in the last week of November by the industry body SAWIS (South African Wine Industry Information and Systems) indicated that wineries and viticulturists are foreseeing the smallest harvest production in over a decade for 2018. The decrease in production is due to drought, a shrinking area under vines and frost damage.
The area under vines has shrunk annually since 2007. In 2016 the total area under vines amounted to 95 775 ha compared to 100 568 ha in 2011. That is a 5% decline in the past 5 years.
Widespread frost damage at the end of September and start of October this year resulted in large crop losses in certain parts of the Orange River, Breedekloof, Worcester and Robertson wine regions in the Western Cape.
Francois Viljoen, Consultation Service Manager for the wine industry organisation VinPro, said that the drought conditions that have been prevalent in the Western Cape for the 3rd consecutive season will have a major effect on the 2018 harvest.
“Most of the industry’s large irrigation dams are 30% to 40% full. This means that wine grape producers’ water resources were cut by 40% to 60% and they could not fully meet their vines’ water demand,” said Viljoen.
The Orange River region is currently the only wine region not experiencing water shortages. On the other hand, the Olifants River region is expected to have a substantial decline in yields, as producers were allocated less than 25% of their usual water quota from the Clanwilliam Dam during this season.
“The low dam levels and insufficient water resources are most likely to be the greatest cause of a smaller 2018 harvest. Good rainfall in December and January may, however, bring great relief and change the outlook for the better,” said Viljoen.
Rico Basson, VinPro’s Managing Director, said that the socio-economy, especially in the Olifants River region, will be negatively affected as seasonal employment opportunities will be cut.
Wine producers in France, Italy, Spain and California in America are also under pressure from natural phenomena and this, combined with a greater demand, is set to lead to a wine shortage in specific categories worldwide.
“Wine shelves won’t suddenly be empty. The relative wine shortage creates an excellent opportunity for the industry to compete at higher price points,” Basson said.