The SA wine industry saw R10.2 billion in exports in 2021 – the highest rand value of SA wine exports since 2014, when the current method of calculating it was introduced.
This was for 388 million litres exported, according to Wines of South Africa (WoSA), which promotes local wines in key international markets. However, WoSA said, there was also a recovery in prices.
WoSA said the development was heartening, given alcohol sales bans, local and global freight and port issues, and a shortage of glass and packaging materials.
Maryna Calow, WoSA’s communications manager, said exports for the last few years have faced multiple challenges including drought – which brought volumes down in 2019 especially – and in 2020, the widespread impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“But we saw a good recovery in 2021 of our export numbers. What is specifically heartening for us as an industry is the prices paid for our wines. That means there was value growth as well as volume growth,” says Calow. In 2018, by comparison, a total volume of 420 million litres was exported, fetching R9.1 billion.
The value growth in 2021 was mostly in packaged wines as opposed to the bulk wine category. But volume growth was largely in the bulk export segment, because SA had a large supply of wine stock in left in cellars, mainly due to various sales bans.
The UK, SA’s largest wine export market, showed growth in both volume (+10%) and value (+25%) of packaged wine. The European focus markets of Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden remain largely stable.
SA wine exports to China benefited from a trade war the latter has with Australia. African markets also recovered in 2021, with export volumes exceeding pre-Covid-19 levels. Markets driving this growth are Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Both North American markets of Canada and the USA have shown volume growth. This has mainly been driven by bulk wine exports.
Online wine sales have also grown during the pandemic.
“We feel positive as an industry. Our harvest so far looks like it is going very well. The hope is for further recovery in our average export volumes – especially if it could tip through the 400 million litre mark for 2022. In 2019 it was 320 million litres due to the drought, so a more normal average [pre-Covid-19] average volume was closer to 420 million litres,” says Calow.
A key trend in SA’s export markets is that consumers prefer better quality wines, even if that means they can afford smaller quantities, Calow said.