Drought forces Namibia’s wine producer to buy SA grapes

One of the country’s few whiskey and wine producers, Erongo Mountains Winery, has turned to South Africa for grapes after drought decimated its grape production.

Farms and businesses that depend on the annual rainy season for production have had to take alternative approaches.

These alternative methods could mean going from locally producing grapes to sourcing them from South Africa (SA).

The neighbouring country is Namibia’s biggest trading partner, as well as Africa’s largest wine producer.

The winery in Omaruru’s hills says it cannot make wine with proudly Namibian wine grapes due to a lack of sufficient rainfall over the past four years.

Erongo Mountains Winery, the makers of Eembe cream liqueur and Namibian Kiss wine, told reporters on Monday the winery had to rely on South African grape imports after its vineyard at Omaruru struggled to keep up with production.

“There has been a problem with rain for the last three or four years. We have water, but it has not been enough for the whole process. We used to have our own grapes, but because of the rain we buy the grapes from Stellenbosch,” Jeremiah Protasius, an employee at Erongo Mountains Winery, said.

Namibia has seen a steady increase in grape production under irrigation, particularly in the Stampriet and Aussenkehr areas, but these grapes are not suitable for wine and whisky production, Jeremiah said.

“The grapes are too watery and are not suitable for wine,” he said.

The winery is currently in the process of installing an irrigation system to make use of underground water in the Omaruru area.

In December, the Omaruru Town Council informed its residents that it is in the process of expanding its groundwater extraction capabilities by adding two new boreholes in the Omaruru River to the existing nine.

The winery is exploring the option to produce gin as it has started growing cacti.

In 2022, Namibia imported grapes worth N$24,2 million, becoming the 129th largest importer of grapes in the world.
In the same year, grapes were the 436th most-imported product in Namibia.

Namibia imports grapes primarily from South Africa, Botswana, Norway, India and Ireland.

The severe droughts in the country have deeply affected the economy, especially corporations’ production output.

Livestock mortality rates have risen due to insufficient grazing land and water, while crop harvests have been dwindling in affected regions.

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