The South African wine industry, including the growing wine-tourism sector, contributed more than R16.3 billion annually to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) according to a recently completed study.

Based predominantly in the Western Cape, the industry contributed some 70% of the province's GDP and employed 257,000 people (63% of workers in the province).

The report was commissioned by the South African Wine Industry Information and Systems (SAWIS), a business unit of the SA Wine and Brandy Company (SAWB).

Compared with a previous SAWIS study in 2000, the latest figures showed that the industry had improved between 1999 and 2003, with turnover growing by 45% (11% per annum) - primarily from excellent performances in the export market. This segment had almost doubled in Rand terms since 1999.

"It must, however, be kept in mind that in the period that the latest wine industry study was performed, exporters enjoyed an extremely favourable exchange rate due to the weak Rand," said CEO of the SAWB, Dr Johan van Rooyen.

"Current margins in international markets are under pressure. Continued growth of the industry will also depend on aggressively exploiting new markets and showing a commitment to market demands for higher quality wines.

The SAWIS study showed that the value of domestic sales of wine and wine-related products grew some 7% per annum over the period from 1999 to 2003.
Total turnover of the wine and brandy, amounted to R10.7bn of which R3.2bn was from exports, while an estimated  R4,2bn was generated indirectly through tourism in the Winelands.