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The Guardian's coverage has potential for "unimaginable damage", warns WOSA

Published:  28 January, 2013

Wines of South Africa has accused The Guardian of potentially causing "unimaginable damage" to the industry.


Wines of South Africa has accused The Guardian of potentially causing "unimaginable damage" to the industry.


The newspaper ran an article on Thursday under the headline: Don't buy South African wines: striking workers' plea to foreign consumers.


The article repeated a call by Nosey Pieterse, secretary general of the black agricultural sector union, Bawusa for foreign buyers to pledge not to import South African products unless their call for a pay rise to 150 rand a day (£10.65) were met.


It also ran a poll in its Comment is Free section asking "Will you boycott South African wine?" in which 59% of people said they would.


WOSA chief executive Su Birch said the coverage unfairly targets the 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.


Birch said the strike action and protests the Western Cape has been carried out by workers on fruit farms - not wine farms. She also pointed out that ruling party ANC and Cosato, South Africa's largest trade union, have called for an end to the strikes.


"We feel the call to boycott South African wines is inappropriate and saddening. The wine industry contributes an estimated R27 billion to the South African economy and some 275,000 people are directly employed by the industry. These people will be negatively affected if sales fall - a very likely outcome when wine farms are already battling against tough market conditions and if consumers boycott our wines.


"We ask that consumers support the industry and farm workers by buying our wines, ensuring the efforts by WIETA, Fairtrade, Fair for Life and all our producers can continue."


"Whilst we acknowledge that work is still to be done, South Africa is the largest producer of Fair Trade wines in the world and the initiatives by WIETA are making real, tangible progress that puts South Africa at the forefront of ethical, social sustainability," Birch wrote in a letter to The Guardian.

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