While South Africa's total wine exports grew by an average of 8.4% for 2000, those to certain European markets increased substantially more and white wine volumes to Australasia hit a phenomenal 370%.

According to figures released by the South African Wine Industry Information and Services (SAWIS), the UK remains the largest importer of Cape wines with 57 895 856 litres exported last year compared with 53 745 526 litres in 1999, an increase of 8%, which is in keeping with the average for the year.

There were however, substantial increases in other European countries, especially in established markets, where intensive efforts are being made to increase South Africa's stake.

In the Netherlands, the Cape's second biggest market, imports rose by 30%, from 19,293,422 litres in 1999 to 25,031,409 litres last year, while in Scandinavia there was a 25% increase from 9,802,137 litres in 1999 to 12,203,915 litres last year.

After a promising start to last year's imports to Germany trailed off towards the end of the year and they ended up at 12% higher, moving from 9,623,090 litres in 1999 to 10,738,657 litres in 2000.

Switzerland became South Africa's fifth largest market with imports climbing 48%, from 5,287,599 litres in 1999 to 7,802,574 litres last year.

A surprising drop of 12% was recorded in Belgium, which went down from 7,477, 744 in 1999 to 6,587,467 litres last year. This appears to be mainly for bulk wine sales, which went down 21% while bottled wine imports rose by 7%.

Another surprise was France, which registered a 19% increase in imports from 3, 816,994 litres in 1999 to 4,546,944 litres last year, with the vast majority of it being bulk wine.

Exports to the rest of Western Europe rose 66%, albeit from a small base. The same applied to Eastern Europe, where the increase was 53%.

Australasian imports of Cape wines went up 275%, from a small base of 486,157 litres in 1999 to 1,338,849 litres last year. The majority was bulk white wine, which grew 832% t from 125,000 litres in 1999 to 11,164,460 last year.

Conversely, lucrative Far East exports dropped by 52%, from 5,905,958 litres in 1999, to 2,858,997 litres last year. Bulk white wine sales dropped by 69% from 3, 288,270 litres in 1999 to 1,004,612 litres last year. The statistics showed there were no bulk red wine imports to the Far East last year.

An industry source said it was doubtful that the bulk wine to Australasia would be destined for either Australia or New Zealand, but would probably have passed through their books for selling on to Far East markets.

The source said he knew of at least one case where that had happened. He attributed it to the fact that most South African wineries were not au fait with the Far East markets, whereas some Australian agents were old hands at it.

The same was probably true of much of the bulk white wine being "imported" into France, for selling on to other European countries.

Significantly of the smaller markets, Canadian imports last year dropped 76% and the USA dropped 18%

Wines of South Africa (WOSA) has appointed marketers or public relations consultants to help them specifically develop the North American and Far East markets, as well as boost those of Europe.

The statistics also showed that natural wine exports totalled 138,381,953 litres last year compared with 127,636,278 litres in 1999. (This does not include sparkling wine and flavoured grape juice liquor).

White wine made up the majority of exports with 76,803,686 litres last year, followed by 59,535,332 litres of red wine and 2,042,935 litres of blanc de noir and rose wines.

Together with fortified wines, sparkling wine and flavoured grape liquor, exports last year totalled 140,094,076 litres last year compared with 129,257,744 litres in 1999, an increase of 8.3%.