South Africa's Wine Exports Decline Significantly

South Africa's wine exports experienced a 17% decrease in 2023. However, in terms of export value, they held their ground, remaining affordable for international buyers.

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The volume of wines shipped from South Africa is decreasing. However, the majority is still exported as bulk wine in containers. (Photo: Anucha Sirivisansuwan)
The volume of wines shipped from South Africa is decreasing. However, the majority is still exported as bulk wine in containers. (Photo: Anucha Sirivisansuwan)

In 2023, South Africa's wine exports reached a total of 306.3m liters, reflecting a decline of 16.9% compared to the previous year, as reported by Wines of South Africa. Notably, the export value, when viewed from a South African standpoint, experienced a marginal uptick of 0.9%, reaching approximately 10bn South African Rand. This accessibility for international purchasers is evident when examining the export value in U.S. dollars, which stood at $540m, marking an 11% decrease.

Price dynamics

The reduction in wine volume exports affected both bottled and bulk categories similarly. However, it was notable that bulk wine exports experienced a more pronounced decline in value, with a slight dip also observed in the export value in Rand. Despite this, there was an uptick in the average prices, as the decline in value, whether in Rand (0.3%) or dollars (12%), did not align proportionally with the 16.9% decrease in volume.

Bulk wine exports, for instance, amounted to 189.2m liters, fetching 125m dollars (approximately €11m ), resulting in an average export price of $0.72 per liter. On the other hand, bottled wine exports accounted for 117.1m liters, with a total export value of $414m (approximately €38m), translating to an average export price of $3.53 per liter.


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Disrupted markets

With the exception of Belgium, which saw a notable increase of 32% to 18.1m liters, and Zambia, experiencing a substantial 105% surge to 2.4m liters, most major target markets encountered declines in wine volume.

UK remained the largest export market, receiving 93.6m liters. Despite 65m liters being bulk wine, the value of South African wine exports to the UK increased to 2.8bn Rand (up 19%) or $152m (up 4%).

Germany imported 49.4m liters, marking a 16% decrease, with a total value of $51m (circa €47m), securing its position as the second-largest export market for South African wines. However, when considering bottled wine exports exclusively, Germany ranked fifth. as a significant portion of South African wine is transported to Germany in flexitanks, where it is subsequently bottled and partly re-exported by prominent German wineries.

Canada, the USA, and Nigeria experienced substantial drops in volume, with Canada reaching 16.7m liters (down 38%), the USA at 12.1m liters (down 52%), and Nigeria at 3.7m liters (down 32%). 

France secured the fourth spot among the largest volume markets, importing 16.9m liters. Similar to Germany, France also had a significant share of bulk wine, with 16.5m liters. Following France were Canada and Denmark, with 14.7m liters and 13.4 m liters, respectively (the latter experiencing a 5% decrease), with both countries having substantial amounts of bulk wine in their imports.

The US, despite ranking ninth in total volume, stood fourth in terms of value, trailing the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands, due to a relatively high proportion of bottled wine, amounting to 7.5m liters. This makes the significant losses in the US market particularly noteworthy. VM


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