After a long haul, the European Commission has this week approved the registration of the designation “rooibos/red bush” in its register of protected designations of origin (PDO) and protected geographical indications (PGI).
South Africa’s favourite tea therefore joins the league of champagne, Irish whiskey, Porto, Queso Manchego and other iconic products already registered.
Dawie de Villiers, the legal director of the SA Rooibos Council, says the inclusion in the EU register is a “big win” for the rooibos industry and South Africa as a whole.
“The registration will allow rooibos to use the protected designation of origins logo, which is well-recognised by consumers in Europe. The logo will identify rooibos as a unique product.”
He says the registration will afford the industry greater ability to protect rooibos’ trademark worldwide.
A sustainable industry
De Villiers also notes that the registration will go a long way towards sustaining the rooibos industry.
Higher consumption of rooibos because of increased recognition will contribute to the preservation of traditional knowledge and further uplift small-scale farmers in the indigenous communities producing Rooibos.
“As an industry we recognise the close connection between rooibos, the area where it grows, as well as the community and their traditions.
“Our goal is to protect, support and promote the sustainability of not only rooibos, but the rich heritage of the industry as a whole, which is why we so doggedly pursued the registration.
“Rooibos also forms part of South Africa’s rich biodiversity, and we believe that the registration will make way for other indigenous species, such as Buchu and Aloe Ferox to also be indicated as PDOs and reap similar rewards,” De Villiers says.
Rooibos is the first African food to receive the status of a protected designation of origin in the European Union register.
The registration was welcomed by the South African Rooibos Council, the Western Cape government and the Delegation of the European Union to South Africa.
Marthane Swart manager of the Secretariat at the South African Rooibos Council, says commercial and small-holder rooibos farmers in the Cederberg biosphere will “definitely benefit” from this PDO.
“If you think about the PDO, it is a very well recognised field in the EU market and farmers also may not know to what extent they will see this benefit in reality but what it is normally seen in the market with other GIs and with other PDOs is that it has a value preposition.
“So, it actually adds value to the product. We will have to see as we settle in if the European consumers are prepared to pay a little more for their products because of the logo that will be attached to our rooibos products,” she says.
Authentic, quality products
Food products listed on the EU register of protected designations of origins generate almost R1.24 trillion in value.
Bilateral agreements between EU and its international partners, including between EU and China, recognise the protected designations of origin.
The recognition of the products’ origin empowers consumers to distinguish quality products and trust that they are enjoying authentic quality products linked to the region of origin, knowledge and know-how of its producers.
The EU’s ambassador to South Africa, Dr Riina Kionka, says, “The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that solid trade relations are critical to ensuring the continuous and uninterrupted supply of safe, nutritious, affordable and sustainable food as well as to providing essential income and jobs along food value chains. This is why South Africa and EU preferential trade relations are so important.
“These relations include the protection of Geographical Indications which enable a stronger connection between unique local food products and European consumer tastes. This has direct benefits for all involved in South Africa and in the EU.
“Geographic indications offer a valuable competitive advantage that is difficult to erode, so we are delighted that Rooibos has been approved as the first African product on the EU register of protected designation of origin (PDO).”
The Western Cape celebrates
Western Cape minister of agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, notes: “Rooibos is one of the most iconic products of the Western Cape and its inclusion in the PDO register will signal its unique quality to consumers, not only in Europe but all over the world.
“We expect that this will lead to an increase in demand by discerning consumers with the benefits working their way back to farms in the designated production area.”
Dr Mogale Sebopetsa, head of the Western Cape department of agriculture adds, “We have been working with the rooibos industry since the 1990’s to prevent the name ‘rooibos’ from being misused by others.
“The inclusion of it in the register recognises the fact that it can only be produced in parts of the Western Cape and Northern Cape provinces.
“In this way our heritage is safeguarded for posterity and will benefit the producers in our region.”