SA’s Rooibos becomes first African commodity to receive EU’s Protected Designations of Origin certification

SOUTH AFRICA – The South African rooibos industry has officially received the certificate of registration for Protection Designation of Origin (PDO) in the European Union (EU).

A PDO identifies and links a product to a region, associating its quality and reputation to that area.

Rooibos also known as bush tea or red tea, is a caffein free herbal tea and antioxidant food ingredient originating from the endemic South African fynbos plant, aspalathus linearis, that has become popular on the global markets.

With the certification, Rooibos will now receive the same protection as Champagne, Irish whiskey, Porto, Queso Manchego and other iconic products already registered, creating greater product recognition and demand.

Further to that, the South African product has become the first African commodity to receive PDO status from the EU, which would afford it greater access to the industry.

Dawie de Villiers, SA Rooibos Council legal director, said, “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.”

The successful registration of Rooibos as a geographical indication will contribute to South Africa not only sustaining but growing jobs and incomes in benefitting rural communities.

Goodies in the registration bag

According to reports by IOL, food products listed on the EU register generate almost R1.24 trillion (US$82.9 billion) and with the registration of Rooibos, it will add to the South African agri-food exports to the EU which have grown to just under R40 billion (US$2.6 billion) despite the pandemic.

“For the EU it is a priority to work with local partners to develop agri-value chains to benefit local development and jobs growth,” the EU Ambassador to South Africa, Dr Riina Kionka, said.

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Among rooibos’s top importers in the EU are Germany, 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,” reiterated Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.

Also, rooibos being part of SA’s rich biodiversity, the registration would pave the way for other indigenous species, such as buchu, aloe ferox, cape flora, honeybush, karoo granate and karoo lam, to be indicated as PDOs and reap similar rewards.

Going forward, producers will be able to include a PDO logo for rooibos on their product which would provide consumer recognition in Europe.

The registration also means rooibos can only be used to refer to the dried leaves of pure rooibos, farmed in the relevant municipalities of the Western Cape and Northern Cape.

Further to that, it will enable easier access to further geographic protection in countries including China and India.

An application to have the rooibos name protected outside of Europe is already under way as an application has been submitted to the World Trade Organisation for an International Harmonised Systems Code for rooibos.

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