Calls for UK boycott of South African wines and fruit counterproductive!


The call last week by the Black Workers’ Agricultural Sector Union (BAWUSA) for consumers in the United Kingdom to boycott South African wines and fruit reminds one of apartheid days, when now-British MP Peter Hain was vocal about boycotting South African products in our dark days prior to the change in our government in 1994. Such a boycott could only worsen the situation for the half a million South African farmworkers, and is counterproductive to negotiating an increase in the minimum farmworker wage, and in the improvement in the general well-being of the farm workers.

The trade union federation COSATU is led by its Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich, a known trouble maker and loud mouth who has regularly put his foot into his mouth in attempting to destroy our tourism industry, and is now focusing on destroying our wine and fruit (including apples and grapes) export business. Ehrenreich is a City of Cape Town ANC councillor, and one wonders why he does not do his day job for Cape Town, regularly having been seen in the past two months in De Doorns, the epicentre of the farmworker unrest, and why the City does not censure him.  He and his trade union federation mates had to concede defeat, when the workers asked for the strike and unrest to be called off last week, as the workers were running short of money, not being paid for their days off whilst striking!  Many say that the unrest was instigated by the ANC to make the Western Cape ungovernable, the province being in the political hands of the opposition Democratic Alliance!

Sensationalist The Guardian has led British newspapers in pushing for the boycott, and even ran an opinion poll about the topic, 59% of the poll voters supporting such a boycott, reported The South African.

Su Birch, CEO of Wines of South Africa (WOSA), wrote an open letter to the newspaper: ‘The coverage unfairly targets the South African wine industry and has the potential to do unimaginable damage to an industry that is working hard, through its support of the Wine and Agricultural Industry Ethical Association (WIETA), and also Fairtrade, to ensure the ethical treatment of workers‘.  Ms Birch highlighted that the strikes were not connected to the wine industry, but to the fruit farming industry.  She also reminded the readers of the newspaper that South Africa is the ‘largest producer of Fairtrade wines in the world‘, and that the WIETA initiatives are making ‘real, tangible progress that puts South Africa at the forefront of ethical, social sustainability‘.  WOSA-antagonist Neil Pendock could not help but take a swipe at WOSA about the poll, yet admitted that he had voted against the boycott!

It is too early to tell what damage, if any, The Guardian poll and resultant publicity for the farmworkers’ cause will generate, and whether it will impact on wine and fruit exports, at a time when South African wine producers are facing tough times in generating sales in the UK!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: Twitter:@WhaleCottage

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7 replies on “Calls for UK boycott of South African wines and fruit counterproductive!”

  1. I can assure you that the requested boycott hasn’t been big news over here, in fact I first read about it 2 minutes ago on your excellent blog! The Guardian is hardly a front line major British newspaper & is only read by tree huggers & BBC employees!!

    I’m just about to have my breakfast consisting of cereal & fruit. nectarines & blueberries from……..South Africa!! No boycott here! 🙂

  2. Excellent news Nick!

    Hope you enjoyed your South African breakfast. Thank you for your loyalty to our country.


  3. I am not sure how Nick Jones can say the Guardian is not a front line major British newspaper in the UK when their readership exceeds 1 million per day

    I am also not sure that they have led the push for a boycott by running a poll but perhaps I missed something elsewhere in the paper.

    They recently had a poll asking readers “Do you want David Cameron to remain PM until 2020?” I don’t consider them to be advocating this view – merely posing a question as they do most days

  4. Living in the UK, I’m sure Nick is a better judge of the credibility of The Guardian than you and I Brandon.

    I did not see Nick or I stating that The Guardian is pushing the boycott, but running a poll on the topic obviously attracts attention tot he issue, especially with the photograph they used! Just what we need to boost tourism!


  5. I lived in the UK for 35 years until 7 years ago when I returned to SA so I can assure you that I am very well placed to judge the credibility of UK newspapers.

    You might be interested to know that The Guardian has 3.68m unique average daily browsers online compared to The Telegraph’s 2.81m (although The Telegraph does have more circulation). The Times has a paywall so I am excluding that. These three are part of the UK’s “quality” newspapers but the circulation of the Sun (a tabloid) exceeds all three of these.

    You said “The Guardian has led British newspapers in pushing for the boycott” – this is where I got the impression from.

    In terms of the effect of highlighting the issue, it’s the job of media to report what is happening rather than to consider the effect their coverage might have on tourism, exports etc. However, I do agree that there tends to be too much emphasis on the negative aspects of South Africa, especially with Sky News.

    But remember, Nick’s stated view is that the tree hugging readers of The Guardian are unlikely to come to SA to avoid a carbon footprint and given there are, in his view, so few readers, positive stories will have little impact and therefore so will the negative ones.

  6. Chris
    Virtually all the table grapes at this time of year come from South Africa. I work in agriculture and I know that most shoppers don’t even look where their fruit (and vegetables) come from
    For me too this the first I have heard of this boycott. I have just bought 2 very nice bottles of South Frican wine today and I go out of my way to buy South African!
    I would also be interested as to how many people took part in the poll, compared to the total population. It will be an insignificant number I feel…

  7. Thank you for your continued support of our South African wine and fruit Lisa.

    It is heartening to note that you too have not heard about the poll. A responsible newspaper would have revealed the sample size of the poll. It could have been only a handful of readers voting.


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