After the rush that was 2023, I promised myself that I’d approach this year a little more sensibly… Seems to be tougher than I thought, though! It is very easy to be swept up in the rat race as soon as one returns from that summer holiday, but with 2024 being an election year, I think it is crucial that we take serious quiet time to consider our options. South African industries are taking a beating due to the state of the economy and infrastructure, ongoing policy uncertainty and geopolitics. It’s hard for citizens and business owners to address these issues and despite the promises made in the State of the Nation address, one of our best chances for change might be in how we vote.
It is harvest time in the Winelands and despite long days in the vineyards and cellars, it is a time of energy and optimism. The blessing of a harvest is essential to agricultural communities. Farmers are always aware of the effect external factors can have on their production and the knock-on effect on the economic viability of their communities. This is also clear from the recent farmer protest action in Europe. (Read more) We all know the effect weather patterns have on agricultural activity and that there is little one can do to directly combat climatic conditions, but it would be fair to expect support through working infrastructure, systems and trade agreements. And that, seems to be one of our biggest challenges. What can we do to address what the Daily Maverick identifies as: “Fewer exports, rolling blackouts, a lack of action against the illicit trade, geopolitical issues and policy uncertainty …”?
I always try to find the positive angle, but I have to say that this article called Worrying Trends for the South African wine industry, does not make that easy. If it wasn’t for the success of our local wine tourism industry contributing 17.3% to total winery turnover in 2022 and R9.3-billion to the economy, the picture might have been even bleaker.
The challenges faced by Agriculture and therefore SA wine, are also the reality for most other local enterprises and industries. Loadshedding, a failing transport system and economic pressure take its toll on more than the wine industry. But as wine farming and marketing are our reality, we can see the detrimental effect on investment and profitability – from more vines being uprooted than planted, to the fact that 83% of total domestic wine sales belong to an unsustainable price bracket of less than R60 per litre. We can be creative and innovative, but there are some factors that are beyond our individual control. If it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel for an industry that in 2022 contributed R9.01 billion to tax revenue and generates 3.36 jobs (double the national average of 1.18) for every R1-million capital invested, what are the chances for smaller businesses and entrepreneurs?
Will voting make a difference? You can’t be blamed for being sceptic. There’s a lot of distrust in political parties and as they are predominantly the ones motivating voters to go to the polling stations, even registered voters might not turn up. But the right to vote is so important to South Africans, that I can’t believe that we can be dismissive about it. It is our responsibility to be informed, to make wise choices and to play a part in ensuring the best governance.
It doesn’t have to be about politics, but it should be about support for our troubled industries – whether it is from government or from a government-enabled private sector. The right to make a living and have a chance to save your business should be motivation enough. Let’s vote – it might be our best shot at trying to keep the lights on, the containers shipped, our people employed and for good wine in our glasses.