Wine Industry’s Chance to Act on Cheap Plastic Containers

OK, we’ve got it. Or should have. The South African wine industry will never be the same again. Well, whatever is left of it after Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa and his Covid Command Council have finished with us. The authorities will, possibly together with the local liquor bodies, thrash out new regulations. Trading hours, advertising, blood-alcohol levels for drivers and drinking age-restrictions will be revisited, and revamped. Whether the new regulations are implemented, however, remains a different kettle of moonshine all together.

But government and industry should have tackled one evil feature of the South African wine industry years ago. If it had, the current hard-handed approach to liquor might have been less destructive and invasive.

The issue is the continued selling of cheap rubbish called wine at criminally low prices to South Africa’s poorest-of-the-poor. This stuff comes in plastic or tetrapak containers with a garish cheap label. Names like “Cape’s Best” and “Lekker Ou Jan” and “Namaqua Daisy”.

It sells for between R10 and R22 a litre and is aimed at township dwellers, rural farmworkers and those living off social grants. When the AllPay social grants roll into a rural town in the Western, Northern or Eastern Cape, you can be sure that a substantial of that meagre hand-out will be spent on the cheapest alcohol drink around. I have visited these places. Here the bottle-store owners ensure they are well stocked with plastic wine jugs on the days the social grants get handed out.

How much of this cheap rotgut is sold? According to Sawis, from the year to March 2020, 40.3m in plastic. Another 12m litres in tetrapak, most of which also falls into this trashy category.

The presence of this stuff in the category of South African wine is an embarrassment. It is one of the primary reasons why the country has the highest incidence of foetal alcohol syndrome in the world. Other effects of this evil include physical and psychological trauma in impoverished communities, which ensures the continuing of the despair and poverty.

Government and the wine industry realise this. In 2007 they joined forces in amending the Liquor Products Act 60 of 1989 to prevent the sale of (cheap) alcohol in bags that are not self-supporting and could not be resealed. For the reasons stated above.

But purveyors of this wine-filled plastic bag (papsak) simply changed to a sturdier plastic container for holding this cheap drink. Alcohol abuse in the poor communities continues, as does the harm this stuff causes.

It is time to once-and-for stop making it so easy for people to access this plastic-container evil that leads to them wrecking their own lives, that of their families and communities.

But the damage goes beyond the poor abusers of plastic-packed cheap wine. The mere presence of the stuff is harming the image of South African wine and the local wine industry. Not one wine producer I know of wishes to be associated with Lekker Ou Jan Semi-Sweet at R15 a litre. But until this evil is banished, every producer will suffer from the harm it is doing to the perception of South African wine, as well as the social destruction it causes.

The government has raised concern at this cheap plastic wine. It is now in the industry’s court to do something about it. And not for the first time.

Is once and for all too much to ask?






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9 thoughts on “Wine Industry’s Chance to Act on Cheap Plastic Containers

  1. Ai Emile…hoeveel courts bier word in SA deur dieselfde arm mense verbruik…of is alkohol nou skielik selektief skadelik? Dis ‘n cheap shot wat jy vat om ‘n paar name uit te sonder. Terwyl jou gewete so pla moet jy maar sommer issues met Ale’s ook ontwikkel.

    1. Eduard, Lafras Huguenet hier wat die storie geskryf het. Mens spel dit “quarts” bier. Bier is nie my kwessie nie. Maar wyn is. Die genoemde wyne is skadelik vir die beeld van wyn in Suid-Afrika. Die regering het dit aan Vinpro genoem met die eerste Lockdown, en Vinpro het nou die dag op ‘n openbare forum onderneem om op te tree teenoor die plastiek-PET-storie. Bier is nie die saak nie, die saak is wyn en die negatiewe beeld wat daardie maak-my-dronk nommers skep. Dankie vir die nota.

  2. So after toiling for 8 hours a day at minimum wage in the Vineyards of Stellenbosch for someone who has made a fortune ripping off Steinhoff shareholders, our industries labour is not entitled to affordable alcoholic beverage – the opinion about the quality of the wine remains a minority view… No wonder this country is so polarised

  3. I have only one question : where do they get the grapes to make this crap? Those willing to sell to produce the rubbish wine might be the root of the problem and should be dealt with!

    1. Hi Christine. There will always be willing sellers. But the issue at hand must be tackled right through the value chain.

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