Covid-19 Heaps Misery On Algeria's Wilting Vineyards

Covid-19 heaps misery on Algeria's wilting vineyards

Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria, Sept 16 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 16th Sep, 2020 ) :Algerian winemaker Dahmane Hamamouche used to rise early and rush to work each morning, but he no longer bothers, as his firm chokes on a cocktail of woes.

Long accustomed to nasty surprises including unpredictable weather patterns and periodic mildew outbreaks, Algerian vintners are now facing their worst season in decades.

Soaring temperatures have decimated grape yields and a five-month-long lockdown to combat the Covid-19 pandemic has paralysed the sector.

"We cannot bear this," lamented Hamamouche, who set up a Societe Agricole de Production de la Vigne et du Vin (SAPVI) in 2004.

His wine-making enterprise sources grapes from vineyards in the Sidi Bel Abbes highlands, some 435 kilometres (270 miles) southwest of Algiers, and a clutch of other elevated areas.

Wine-making in the area dates back to Roman antiquity and today Algeria ranks second only to South Africa in wine production on the continent.

But if the unfolding disaster "carries on for more than another month or two, we won't be able to hold out," said Hamamouche, arms crossed over a blue T-shirt.

"We're already finding it difficult to pay salaries." Algeria's cafes and restaurants only reopened in mid-August, when the country emerged from its strict coronavirus lockdown.

Adding to Hamamouche's frustrations, a ban on alcohol distribution -- part of the lockdown -- has yet to be lifted, and alcohol is only sold in specialised stores.

"The government must allow distribution to revive our economic activity," the vintner urged. "We are at a standstill!"No official reason has been given for the ban.

The livelihoods of staff ranging from factory technicians, labourers, cleaners, guards, administrative staff and accountants are at stake.