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As a Craft Distillery, how do I work with the Department of Agriculture?
The Department of Agriculture’s Liquor Division is probably them most unappreciated and undervalued group of Government Employees in the country.
Yes, a lot of people have bad things to say about them, and they get blamed for not allowing us as Crafters to do what we want, and to innovate and to be daring, but they have a thankless job.
They are entrusted to be the Guardians of the South African Liquor Industry, enforcing Laws that never anticipated something like Craft, Laws that have not been changed significantly in Decades, and Laws which they themselves (more often than not) do not agree with.
But just because you do not agree with a Law, does not change the fact that it is the Law.
And without someone holding the line, and saying YES or NO, we will have total anarchy in the Industry.
As Crafters we need and want to innovate and challenge preconceptions. We want to be daring and different. But as we are also small businesses, we need all the protection we can get, and that is what the National Liquor Products Act gives us – Protection.
What is the National Liquor Products Act?
The National Liquor Products Act determines when does a product fall into a certain category, or more importantly, how am I allowed to produce a certain product. More than that however, it controls WHAT you are allowed to put in a product and what NOT.
The main resource for this information is however not the National Liquor Products Act itself, but the National Liquor Products Act Regulations – the newest version of which came out in March 2019.
In this document we get all the different categories of Spirit and Wine Products, their definitions, Labelling Requirements, Lists of Substances that may be added, removed, or is restricted, Rules and Regulations regarding Import and Export, etc. etc.
This is the Roadmap for any Spirit Producer in terms of WHAT you are allowed to make and HOW you are allowed to make it, and the Department of Agriculture’s Liquor Division is the Guardians (and Enforcers) of this Roadmap.
When will I deal with the Department of Agriculture?
A Craft Distiller doing things right and following the rules will deal with the Department of Agriculture three times.
- To Obtain a Certificate of Safety for Human Consumption
- To Obtain an A-Number
- To Obtain Product and Label Approval
What is a Certificate of Safety for Human Consumption?
If you reference our Article on How do I get a License for a Craft Distillery in South Africa?, you will see it mentions the Certificate of Safety for Human Consumption as one of the items you need to hand in to the Provincial Liquor Board in order to get your license.
Within the Department of Agriculture however, the Certificate of Safety for Human Consumption is referred too as a Letter of Compliance.
Basically, it is a way to prove to the Liquor Board that you can make a Liquor Product that will not poison anyone.
How do I obtain the Certificate of Safety for Human Consumption?
The letter of compliance as required by the provincial Liquor Boards, can be submitted as Supplementary Documentation, after you have submitted your Liquor License Application to the Liquor Board concerned, or it can be submitted with the Initial Application.
The normal procedure to obtain a letter of compliance is as follows:
- You will need to mail a copy of your liquor license application (Form 4) and also quote your temporary (CMATS…) or permanent reference number (WCP/….) or ECP (if Eastern Cape Liquor Board) or GLB (if Gauteng Liquor Board) in your email (attach any correspondence from the liquor board that makes reference to your reference number). If you want to submit as part of your Initial Application you will not have a Reference Number yet, so you still need to send a copy of your application form as proof.
- You need to provide draft labels of the product(s) you intend to produce, an ingredients list (mentioning the quantities used as well) for each product, and the production process in writing and/or flow diagram.
- You will also need to submit an analysis of the type of liquor you intend to produce, so that DAFF can guide you whether it complies with the requirements of the Liquor Products Act and to give you guidance on the labelling of the liquor products.
NOTE: Should there be instances where it is not possible to produce or submit a sample, the reason for this should be stated and the composition and production process of the liquor product concerned will have to be submitted. DAFF will consider your motivation and inform you whether a sample will still be required.
ALSO NOTE: Lab analysis is not done by DAFF, but by independent and certified third-party Laboratories like Integral Labs and VinLab.
The products can be submitted to Integral Laboratories or VinLab for a full analysis (ethanol, methanol and sugar content) and DAFF must then be provided with copies of the analysis’s reports.
They will then use those analyses to draft the letter.
Once DAFF has all the information, they will evaluate the Content and Labelling for compliance and provide you with advice how to ensure compliance and then issue a letter of compliance to you.
If using Integral Labs, the physical business address for the delivery of the samples, for your own account is:
No. 1 Zandwyk Park
Old Paarl Road
Contact Telephone Number: 021 863 1238
What is an A-Number?
The A-Number is a searchable Code Number which appears on the labels of most Liquor Products. It is used to give consumers the ability to find out who made a product, without having to waste label space on the full name and address.
So, if you buy a product and you want to see who is responsible for the production of that product, you need to go on to the SAWIS Website – www.sawis.co.za – and on the Homepage you will see a little text block saying “Search Code Number”. Clicking on it will open a Pop-Up where you enter the A-Number, and when you search you will see the name and address or see if the Code is fake (which happens quite often).
Now, please note, A-Numbers are not Legal Requirements, and they can also be misleading.
The National Liquor Products Act Regulations states that the Label must display the Name and Address, OR Code Number, of the Responsible SELLER.
Two important things to note – a Name and Address can be listed in lieu of the Code Number, and secondly, it is the details of the SELLER, not the MANUFACTURER. So do not immediately assume that the name that appears is the name of the actual Producer or Distiller.
Now, as a rule, you will find that 90% of our clients list both their name and address AND an A-Number. Why? Why do both if you only need one?
My advice to clients and trainees has always been to do both on the label, for two reasons.
You want your Name and Address on the bottle, as that bottle is a mobile billboard, and wherever it goes, and whoever sees it, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to buy your product, so you put as much contact information as possible on that label.
You want the A-Number on the bottle as well, due to the fact that consumers do not know what the A-Number is or how to use it. They form their own misconceptions about it, thinking it’s a License Number or Product Approval Number. As such, if they do not SEE an A-Number, they don’t trust the product.
Now, although SAWIS administrates the A-Numbers, Department Agriculture issues the A-Numbers.
To apply for one though, you must first have a License. Once your License is approved, you will need to contact Rhonél Basson at DAFF to apply for you’re A-Number, and once you have been issued an A-Number, you can incorporate that on your final Label.
NOTE: The same A-Number is used on all products Produced in your Distillery. Also, please remember to check that your correct details have been uploaded into the SAWIS Reference System.
What is Product and Label Approval?
When you first open up your Craft Distillery, as mentioned earlier, you need to get your initial Product approved in order to get your license.
But what if you now make a second product? Or a third? Or ten more?
Interestingly enough, as strict as South African Liquor Law is, having Spirit Products approved for Local Sale is not a Legal Requirement.
The Law states that Products must COMPLY to the Law, but there is no measure of enforcement or mechanism in place. It is up to Brands themselves to decide if they want to submit products for approval or not.
Now we at Distillique, and by extension SACDI (the Southern African Craft Distilling Institute) and RealCraft (the Craft Certification Authority) do not agree that Product Approval should be optional. We feel it is in the industry and consumer’s interest that ALL products MUST be approved.
But we don’t write the Law … Unfortunately ….
So, the best we can do for now is:
- Motivate Clients to submit their products for product approval in their own interest – for piece of mind and social responsibility, and
- Require Product Approval per Product in order to get Craft Certification from RealCraft.
The process is exactly the same as for the initial Compliance Certificate application.
And please note, that the law does specify that for Exports, every BATCH (not every product), every BATCH that is exported needs to be separately approved.
Seems like the authors of our Laws cared more about consumers in other countries than those in our own country.