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Su Birch steps down as WOSA CEO

Here’s the press release from WOSA, detailing Su Birch’s announcement that she’ll be leaving in September 2013, having been in the position since 2000.

SU BIRCH TO LEAVE WOSA

After 13 years, WOSA CEO Su Birch is to leave the organisation charged with promoting South African wine exports, to pursue a personal project that, she says, she has been deferring for “too long”.

Birch, this year’s winner of The Drinks Business Green Awards Lifetime Achievement and a former winner of both The Drinks Business Woman of the Year and the International Wine and Spirit Competition’s Women in Wine Award, was identified last year as one of the ten most influential personalities in the world of wine by UK market analysts, Wine Intelligence.

She will remain in her position till the end of September. This is both to hand over to the new incumbent and to allow her to oversee The Beautiful South, the first Southern Hemisphere wine trade exhibition that takes place in London that same month, and which she was instrumental in conceiving and organising.

A search for a replacement was to be conducted as a priority over the coming weeks, she said.
Birch has played a key role in advancing South Africa’s reputation as one of the most progressive amongst wine-producing nations in driving eco-sustainable wine production. Under the banner “variety is in our nature” she has actively promoted the country’s competitive positioning in producing a rich variety of wine styles. She is also credited with spearheading South Africa’s far-reaching Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI) that has seen producers set aside substantially more land for conservation than the equivalent of the national vineyard.
She has been one of the major advocates of the country’s Sustainability Seal, the first industry-wide initiative of its kind anywhere in the world, to promote production integrity from the vineyard to the consumer. This was followed by the introduction last year of an Ethical Seal, also the first of its kind, that confirms the implementation of fair labour practices by wine producers.

At an international level she has also been one of the key drivers for co-operation amongst normally competing New World wine-producing countries, playing an important part in bringing South Africa, New Zealand, the US, Chile and Argentina together at the annual international trade fair ProWein, where the countries annually present a collective showcase.

The Beautiful South is an extension of this approach in which Argentina, Chile and South Africa will present their first combined trade exhibition in the UK.

After a brief sabbatical, Birch plans to focus on the development of cost-effective marketing solutions for a range of industries, from the beginning of next year. “Rising costs and a volatile exchange rate are forcing South Africans to work smarter and with greater agility in order to be heard in an increasingly competitive environment, whether locally or internationally. Working to very tight budgets demands stringent discipline but also encourages creative problem-solving. This is where I believe I can play a meaningful role.

“I shall be leaving WOSA with a sound international team in place at the same time that the country has evolved into a significant player in world wine markets, well on its way to capturing and building on new opportunities.”

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