Rooibos Limited Managing Director Martin Bergh (left) receives the EU Certificate from EU Ambassador to South Africa, Riina Kionka on Yzerfontein Guest farm near Clanwilliam. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
Rooibos Limited Managing Director Martin Bergh (left) receives the EU Certificate from EU Ambassador to South Africa, Riina Kionka on Yzerfontein Guest farm near Clanwilliam. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Iconic Cederberg-grown Rooibos is now on a par with Champagne after EU certification

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Aug 24, 2021

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Cape Town - Rooibos, an indigenous plant native to the Western Cape, is now on a par with Champagne and Port Wine, which are classed by the EU as products that are “produced, processed and prepared” in a specific area, using a particular traditional method.

This after Rooibos was officially included in the EU’s Geographical Indication Register.

In practical terms this means that unless a product is made from dried leaves derived from the Aspalathus linearis plant that have been harvested from the Western or Northern Cape and specifically from the Cederberg region, it cannot be called Rooibos.

During a ceremony at which EU Ambassador to South Africa, Riina Kionka, handed over a certificate to the Rooibos industry recognising its registration for Protection Designation of Origin (PDO) in the EU, Rooibos officially became the first African product to receive this designation.

Rooibos Limited managing director Martin Bergh received the certificate from Kionka at the Yzerfontein Guest farm near Clanwilliam.

Handing over the certification, Kionka said: “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 benefiting rural communities. For the EU it is a priority to work with local partners to develop agri-value chains to benefit local development and jobs growth.”

Rooibos Limited Managing Director Martin Bergh (left) receives the EU Certificate from EU Ambassador to South Africa, Riina Kionka on Yzerfontein Guest farm near Clanwilliam. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

She said food products listed on the EU register of PDOs generated almost R1.24 trillion in value, and that there was significant demand for Rooibos in Europe.

Speaking at the ceremony, Premier Alan Winde said: “Among Rooibos’ 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.”

Agriculture MEC Ivan Meyer said: “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.”

Meyer said that over the past 20 years, Dr Dirk Troskie from the Western Cape’s Department of Agriculture had diligently managed and supported the industry during the registration process.

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

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