Inside the world of South African conservation wine farming during COVID-19

On 7 May 2020 the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) organised a webinar focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on the wine industry in South Africa. Here we are highlighting some of the interesting points on and challenges experienced by the industry in the country as presented by the speakers during this webinar. 


WWF is running a programme with wine farmers on Conservation agriculture. The programme seeks to motivate and train farmers about conservation farming and farmers who are part of the programme are called Conservation Champions.

The focus of the programme is on water conservation, land use, biodiversity and farming with nature. About 90% of wine farmers in South Africa are using  environmentally friendly techniques.

On 7 May 2020 WWF organised a webinar focusing on the impact of COVID-19 on the wine industry in South Africa. The moderator of the Webinar was Shelly Fuller, WWF’s Programme Manager for Sustainable Agriculture in the Fruit and Wine Industry. Here we are highlighting some of the interesting points drawn from this webinar.

On the impact of COVID 19 WWF reported that:

  • Wine farmers have just recovered from the effects of climate change which affected the Western Cape Province about 2 years ago, then found themselves stuck with COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Wines farmers have lost about 500 ml Rands due to the effects of COVID-19.
  • The biggest loss is from the fact that local sales are not allowed.
  • Tourism and hospitality operations both those owned by the wineries and their clients are not operating.
  • Campaigns against alcohol are damaging the reputation of wine industry.
  • Closure of local market channels has meant keeping wine on the shelf for a long times and eventually running out of shelf space.

Two cases of concrete experiences by wine business owners

  1. Nora Thiel of Delheim Winery runs a vineyard of 375 hectares in 2 properties and follows conservation agricultural practices. She commented that wine is part of tourism industry. Due to COVID-19 measures visitors are not coming. This has led to loss of cash flows “even if we have to keep taking care of vineyards”.
  2. Grant Baxter and Chris Keet Jnr  of Gabrielskloof Winery commented that they follow conservation practices e.g. use of natural predators instead of chemicals. They also commented that they have lost cash flows due to closure of their owner hospitality facilities and those belonging to their customers. They commented that 70% of their customers are South Africans. They further commented that they use their time now to conduct certain farm activities such as removing weeds and alien species. Due COVID-19 forecasting is difficult – you cannot predict what is coming.