The Business Report (South Africa) reports that an industry association is calling for better policing and tighter regulations instead of banning bag-only packaging.
Wine player challenges calls for papsak ban
October 30, 2006
By Ronnie Morris
Cape Town - Government plans to ban the sale of the papsak, the five-litre foil container of low-end wine, could cost the wine industry millions of rands, lead to job losses and even end up in court, an industry player has warned.
The foil container, colloquially known as the Bonteheuwel briefcase because of its popularity with the poor, retails for between R28 and R40. Bonteheuwel is a working class suburb on the Cape Flats.
Papsak wine is blamed for increased alcohol abuse and for being a major cause of foetal alcohol syndrome. The foil bag is known for its versatility and after its contents have been drunk, it is used as a water container, a cushion and a flotation device.
Boet le Hanie, the chairman of the Standard Price Wine Association, said the organisation's 15 members distributed 12 million litres of affordable papsak wine every year. Instead of banning the papsak, there should be better policing and tighter regulations to eliminate the fly-by-night distributors of inferior quality wine.
The problem of alcohol abuse would not be solved by putting the foil container in a box and if distributors were forced to sell the bags in cardboard boxes, jobs would be lost, he said.
Le Hanie warned that "if this [the ban] is done unilaterally without input from us, we will have to test this in court".
Henry Hopkins, a respected wine writer, said wine-in-a-box was patented in Australia and brought to South Africa in the early 1980s.
Cheaper wine of dubious quality was later sold in the foil bag as consumers in poorer areas, particularly the rural areas, struggled to either carry the five-litre box of wine or transport it on a bicycle and solved the problem by tearing the box apart.
Wine maker Danie de Wet, the chairman of wine and brandy producer KWV, said the real problem was to educate people that alcohol, if abused, could be dangerous.
The foil bag was hygienic, convenient and handy for consumers, did not break and could be fitted into a refrigerator or transported far more easily than wine in a box, he said.
Henk Bruwer, the chairman of Wine Cellars SA, said the foil bag was problematic and created a negative image of the wine industry and the added costs of putting it in a box would not affect the lower end of the market.
Sharron Marco-Thyse of the SA Wine Industry Council said: "We have to be realistic about this. This [the ban] is not going to reduce alcohol abuse or deal with the legacy that the industry has around how the product is being consumed.
"However we are also saying that the industry has a responsibility towards its consumers and towards communities that are at risk."
Kader Asmal, the chairman of the SA Wine Industry Council, said the organisation proposed the bag-in-the-box packaging or high quality plastic bottles.