Wine exports grow in value despite challenges

South African wine exports have continued its downward trend in volume, declining by 17% in 2023 to 306 million litres, according to a statement by Wines of South Africa (WOSA).

Wine exports grow in value despite challenges
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To put this in perspective, export volumes declined by 5% to 368 million litres in 2022, after increasing by 22% to 388 million litres in 2021.

A closer evaluation revealed that volumes of all the wine categories were down in 2023, except for the Other Single Red Cultivar category, which increased by 11% to 4,4 million litres, the Dry Red category which increased by 4% to 11,6 million litres, and the Other Red category which increased by 20% to 11,5 million litres.

Despite the overall volume decline, export value increased by 0,9% from R9,9 billion to R10 billion on the back of packaged wine exports that saw a 1,2% increase in value from R7,6 billion to R7,66 billion. The value of bulk exports declined by 0,3% to R2,3 billion.

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In terms of rand-per-litre terms, the value of all the categories increased in 2023, except for the Other Red category, which declined by 1%. The value of the Other Single White Varieties category increased by 83%, those of Dry Whites by 46% and Blanc de Noir/Rose by 32%, and White Blends by 22%. Sparkling Wine and Cape Classique values increased by 16% and 17% respectively.

When it comes to the single varietals, Chardonnay saw a 31% increase in value, Chenin Blanc a 20% and Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz a 19% increase in value. Sauvignon Blanc value increased by 18% and Pinotage by 16%.

Siobhan Thompson, CEO of WOSA, ascribed the decline in export volumes to the small 2023 harvest, in combination with excessive stock in both northern and southern producing countries, and consumer spending being under pressure. This in turn had an adverse impact on pricing in general.

“The impact was especially evident in the lower- and entry level segment of wine markets where trading is particularly competitive and pricing within the commodity sector leads to a ripple effect throughout the value chain,” Thompson said.

Infrastructural and equipment challenges at the Port of Cape Town exacerbated the situation. Rico Basson, CEO of SA Wine, estimated at the Vinpro Nedbank Producer Day held in Franschhoek recently that these challenges resulted in up to 10% decline in exports.

To overcome this challenge, SA Wine, together with exporters, is engaging with port authorities and has taken a proactive approach in finding ways to support producers. However, a long-term strategy will need to be implemented to truly negate and ultimately correct these challenges, according to Basson.

It was difficult to predict what was going to happen with exports in 2024, but Thompson said chances were slim that South Africa would reach the 420 million litre mark achieved in 2018 because of the expected size of the current harvest in combination with a greater focus on value growth.

Vinpro and South Africa Wine Industry Information and Systems, in their second harvest estimate released recently, adjusted production volumes downward by 1,2% from the initial estimate made in December.

Etienne Terblanche, consultation service manager at Vinpro, said at the Vinpro Nedbank Producer Day that the harvest was expected to be larger than the 2023 harvest, which at 1,186 million tons was 14% lower than the 2022 harvest, and smaller than the five-year average of 1,322 million tons.