Rooibos gets marketing boost with new EU certification

Excellent news for the rooibos industry. Joining the ranks of champagne and parmigiana, the word 'rooibos' may now only be seen on European shelves if the product truly is from the Western or Northern Cape

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The Western Cape’s rooibos industry will likely be boosted with the European Union’s recognition of its authentic origin. The EU presented a certificate to the local rooibos industry, which recognises the plant’s registration within the EU for its protection designation of origin (PDO).

A PDO identifies and links a product to a region, associating its quality and reputation to that area. Rooibos now falls under the same protection as champagne and parmigiana, for example.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde received the certificate on Monday, 23 August from the EU’s ambassador to South Africa, Dr Riina Kionka.

rooibos boost: Western Cape premier Alan Winde. Photo: Supplied
Western Cape premier Alan Winde. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“I welcome the collaboration between the Western Cape government, the rooibos industry and the European Union, which has ensured that rooibos is registered for a PDO. Rooibos is now the first African product to receive PDO status from the EU, which will afford greater access to the industry,” Winde said in a statement.

It is hoped that the registration will create greater recognition and demand for rooibos and that this, in turn, will stimulates job creation. “Rooibos is one of the most iconic products of the Western Cape. Its inclusion in the EU’s geographical indication register will signal its unique quality to consumers not only in Europe but worldwide,” Western Cape agriculture MEC Dr Ivan Meyer said.

Speaking on the bilateral relationship between the Western Cape and the European Union, Kionka further stated, “It’s great news that South Africa’s agri-food exports to the EU have grown to just under R40 billion despite the pandemic. The successful registration of ‘Rooibos/Red bush’ as a geographical indication will contribute to South Africa not only sustaining but growing jobs and incomes in benefitting rural communities. For the EU it is a priority to work with local partners to develop agri value chains to benefit local development and job growth.”

The countries that love rooibos the most

EU’s ambassador to South Africa, Dr Riina Kionka. Photo: Supplied/ Food For Mzansi
The EU’s ambassador to South Africa, Dr Riina Kionka. Photo: Supplied/ Food For Mzansi

Food products listed on the EU register of PDOs generate almost R1.24 trillion in value. There is significant demand for rooibos in Europe.

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“Among rooibos’ top importers in the EU are Germany, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Italy. We look forward to seeing the economic impact that PDO registration will have on this important industry and its revenue stream. I commend all the stakeholders involved who have played their part in making this a reality,” added Winde.

Dr Dirk Troskie from the Western Cape’s department of agriculture was also lauded for diligently managing and supporting the industry during the registration process.

It required significant consultation and deliberation between the industry and the European Union. This was crucial to improve market access in Europe.

What does the registration mean for us?

A recognisable PDO logo may now be used on authentic, pure rooibos products in Europe. This will help consumers identify authentic, quality rooibos products that come from their original regions in the Western and Northern Cape, while promoting awareness of its local producers. It will furthermore protect the name “rooibos” from being misused.

As a spin-off, this registration could pave the way for similar registration in other countries such as China and India, or for other South African indigenous species to have their authentic origins registered as well. These may include buchu or Aloe ferox.

“It will also enable South African producers of rooibos to market their products better in the EU,” said Winde. “We expect this to increase demand by discerning consumers, with the benefits eventually trickling back to farms in the designated production area. Safeguarding our traditions and culture will undoubtedly advance the rooibos industry’s commercial interests and lead to an increase in production, exports and jobs.”

ALSO READ: How to start a tea farm in South Africa

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