While the national South African vineyard is facing a crisis as a result of huge stocks of unsold wine due to Covid-19, German pig-farmers are also lamenting the parlous state of the Cape wine industry. The German hog-rearers are up-in-arms over their pending pork surplus anticipated as a result of the decision to cancel next year’s Prowein, the world’s largest wine fair held in Dusseldörf each year.
The decision to call-off Prowein 2021, which was set to take-place in March, will apparently lead to thousands of unsold pigs due to the lack of Prowein attendees from the Cape winelands who have in the past consumed prodigious quantities of pork in the form of schweinhaxe – roast pig knuckle.
Manfred Würstessen, chairperson of the German Pork Feeders Confederation, says the eradication of the lucrative market for schweinhaxe at Prowein adds to the misery the country’s pig-farmers have faced as a result of the Covid pandemic. “We truly thought that with the South Africans visiting Prowein to do their customary eager devouring of schweinhaxe, our pork industry will receive some relief,” he said.
“During 2020 we could not sell sausages at soccer games and the lack of British tourists due to travel restrictions caused the market for bacon-sandwiches to vanish overnight, especially as the brothels also had to shut-down. Thus, when we heard the South African wine farmers were on their way to Düsseldorf for Prowein, it appeared as if our prayers had been answered. No nation puts away German pork knuckles like a Cape vigneron, and we had even ordered the raising of 10 000 extra hogs in Lichtenstein to meet with the anticipated demand from South Africa.”
With no Prowein and no South African appetites, German pig farmers are facing a bleak future. “What to do with the extra hogs – if you have a wine surplus you can distil it. But an oversupply of pigs is not easy to manage – even by the standards of German logistics.”
According to Manfred Varkvölen, owner of the restaurant Das Essen in downtown Düsseldorf, the decision to cancel Prowein will have a huge impact on the city’s hospitality industry. “Usually extra supplies of schweinhaxe are brought into the city for Prowëin, as the thousands of visitors from over 120 wine countries have shown a particular liking for this roasted piece of lower pig’s leg, a pinnacle of German gastronomy,” he said.
“In 2019, for example, I and the whole street of restaurants around me were cleaned out of schweinhaxe by Monday afternoon, the second day of Prowein. Of late it has been the South African wine industry representatives showing relentless destruction of our schweinhaxe stocks, at Das Essen as well as in the whole region.
“Up until two years ago, the Georgians and Ukrainians were the keenest schweinhaxe consumers, but the South Africans surpassed the combined consumption of both East European countries two years ago. So, no Prowein, no knuckle-eating men and woman from down South.”
Bettina Wulpskuchen, spokesperson for Eat Düsseldorf, the local association for restaurants, said the last time the Germans longed for a visit from a foreign contingent to this extent was in World War II when they waited for the Italians to relieve Berlin.
“I don’t think the rest of Germany realises how dependent we have become on the South Africans spending a week in one of the country’s major cities enjoying our wonderful culinary offering of schweinhaxe,” she says.
“With Prowein not going ahead this year, the sight of the cheerfully interesting wine farmers from Stellenbosch, Robertson and Paarl eating German pork knuckle will be sorely missed. Especially as the mayor of Düsseldorf was planning to this year unveil a bronze statue of a Simonsberg winemaker holding a schweinhaxe in one hand and a glass of Mosel Riesling in the other. This work of art, commissioned in 2018 already, celebrates the remarkable relationships between Germany and South Africa, cemented in the glories of a regional culinary offering. We hope to be able to unveil it in the near future and will be holding thumbs this does not happen after pigs learn to fly.”
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