South African Wine Revenue Soars Despite Export Shrink

South African Winemakers See Record Revenue


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In the fascinating world of wine, a shift towards valuing quality over sheer volume is becoming increasingly apparent, and nowhere is this trend more pronounced than in South Africa's wine export statistics for 2023. According to data from the South African Revenue Service, the nation witnessed a significant reduction in wine export volume by 19.7%, totaling 349.2 million liters, the lowest since 2006 and a far cry from the 604 million liters peak in 2013. Yet, despite this decrease in volume, South Africa recorded a marginal revenue increase of 0.8%, reaching a record high of 11.423 billion rands, thanks to a substantial 25.4% rise in the average price per liter to 32.71 rands, surpassing 30 rands for the first time.

The increase in wine prices was universal across all types, as well as in nearly all of South Africa's main markets, hinting at the influence of exchange rate fluctuations. The year saw alternating months of gains and declines in value terms, with volume exports only showing increases in October and November. Converted to euros, South Africa's wine exports in 2023 amounted to approximately 562 million euros, averaging 1.61 euros per liter. Since 2000, South African wine exports have grown at an average annual rate of 3.5% in volume and 8.7% in value, escalating from 158 to 349 million liters and from 1.689 to 11.423 billion rands, respectively, with the average price per liter tripling over 23 years (from 10.71 to 32.71 rands).

Interestingly, 2023 saw only sparkling wine experiencing an increase in export volume (+10.1%), contrasting with a 10.7% decline for bottled wine and more than a 25% decrease for bulk and bag-in-box wines. However, the robust performance of sparkling (+17%) and bottled wines (+4.2%) compensated for the losses in bulk (-9.7%) and bag-in-box (-8.3%) categories. Price increases were notable across the board, with sparkling wine seeing the smallest rise (+6%).

In absolute figures, bulk wine lost its dominance as South Africa's primary export, comprising 182.4 million liters or 52.2% of the total, followed by 142 million liters of bottled wine, representing 40.6%. However, bottled wine solidified its leading position in terms of value, generating 7.970 billion rands, nearly 70% of total revenue, followed by bulk wine at 2.381 billion rands (20.8% of total). Both categories saw price increases, with bulk wine prices rising by 21% to 13.06 rands per liter and bottled wine by 16.7% to 56.18 rands.

Bag-in-box wine, although losing market share as the third-largest export category, accounted for 19.6 million liters and 582 million rands, with an average price of 29.66 rands per liter (+24.8%). South Africa, once the world's leading exporter of bag-in-box wines, has now dropped out of the top five within just a few years. Meanwhile, sparkling wine exports grew to 5.3 million liters and 489 million rands, averaging 91.49 rands per liter, underscoring the market's shift towards higher value products.

In 2023, South Africa exported wine to 159 global markets. Among the top ten in value, only three (Germany, the United States, and China) saw declines compared to 2022, while only three of the top ten in volume saw increases (Namibia, Belgium, and Sweden). Belgium was the only market to experience a price decrease, with the remaining nine witnessing significant hikes. The United Kingdom notably increased its share as the top market, with only a 3.8% drop in volume but an 11% increase in value, reaching 93 million liters and 2.590 billion rands. Conversely, Germany's significance as the second-largest market waned, with a 23.3% decrease in volume and a 9.7% drop in value, marking its worst performance in over a decade.

The Netherlands saw a 5.5% increase in value to 809 million rands, overtaking the United States as the third-largest market after the latter experienced a 19.2% decline, more than any other country, falling to 724 million rands. Namibia surpassed Canada as the fifth-largest client, generating 716 million rands (+36.8%), compared to Canada's stable 607 million rands. Belgium and Sweden also gained market share, further illustrating the dynamic shifts within South Africa's wine export landscape.

In volume terms, Namibia climbed the ranks with an 8.4% increase to 21.3 million liters, becoming the third-largest market, a significant recovery from a poor 2022. The Netherlands and Belgium followed, showcasing the changing preferences and market dynamics that South African wine exporters must navigate.

This evolution in South Africa's wine export market underscores a global trend towards appreciating quality over quantity, with consumers willing to pay more for premium products. As the industry adapts to these changing tastes, the focus on crafting exceptional wines that command higher prices seems to be a strategy paying off for South African vintners, even as they face the challenges of fluctuating volumes and shifting market dynamics.

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