The latest liquor lockdown has dramatically worsened the problems facing the Cape wine industry. While the country’s grape growers and winemakers have transformed their business models in the past 25 years — from a control board-managed agricultural environment to a free-trade one — the change has come at a price.

Until 1999 the KWV operated as an organ of state, fixing minimum prices and guaranteeing a level of income to growers. Such an arrangement was never going to long outlast the ancien regime. In the late 1990s deregulation was achieved under agriculture minister Derek Hanekom. The KWV became just another producer-wholesaler, and the farmers were left to fend for themselves...

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