The Western Cape government has welcomed the European Commission’s registration of Rooibos in its lists of Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).
According to a statement released by the EU delegation to South Africa, the country’s favourite tea is the first African food to receive the status.
“Product names registered as PDO have strong links to their origin, since every production, processing, and preparation aspect must take place in that specific origin using recognised know-how,” the Western Cape government explained in a statement.
In contrast, PGI requires that at least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place in the place of origin.
The provincial government said the recognition by the EU was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 31 May 2021.
According to reports, Rooibos has joined the likes of Champagne and Irish whiskey to be included in the EU’s Protected Geographical Indication register.
Western Cape Agriculture MEC, Dr Ivan Meyer, has described Rooibos as one of the most iconic products in the province.
“Its inclusion in the EU’s Geographical Indication Register will signal its unique quality to consumers, not only in Europe but all over the world.”
The registration will also allow South Africa’s Rooibos industry to use the EU logo that is well recognised by consumers in Europe, which will indicate its value as a unique and exclusive product.
“It will also enable South African producers of Rooibos or Red Bush to market their products better in the EU. We expect that this will lead to an increase in demand by discerning consumers with the benefits eventually trickling back to farms in the designated production area.”
The decision also means people cannot call tea Rooibos if it was not cultivated or wild-harvested in designated local municipalities of the Western and Northern Cape.
The provincial government said the department has been working with the Rooibos industry since the 1990s to prevent the name from being misused by others.
“In this way, we safeguard our heritage for posterity,” said Meyer.
The decision by the EU creates the ideal platform for growing the Rooibos industry.
“Safeguarding our traditions and culture will certainly advance the Rooibos industry’s commercial interests and lead to an increase in production, exports and jobs,” Meyer said.
The provincial department quoted the South African Rooibos Council, which said the industry provides income and employment to approximately 8 000 agricultural workers.
Other jobs are created in upstream activities such as processing, packaging and retailing.