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Why rooibos may not cost tea-lovers more yet, despite EU recognition

24 August 2021 - 17:27 By khanyisile ngcobo
Rooibos has been registered as a Protected Designation of Origin product by the EU. File photo.
Rooibos has been registered as a Protected Designation of Origin product by the EU. File photo.
Image: SA Rooibos Council/Supplied

One of SA’s most-loved teas, rooibos, was recently awarded unique regional status by the European Union (EU), gaining the same recognition as French champagne and Irish whiskey.

While the status is a coup for SA and Africa, does this mean it will cost more to buy your favourite brew? 

Rooibos — which means “red bush” in Afrikaans — was the first African product to be awarded such status, or Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), in the EU in June, according to Reuters. 

This means the product is tied to its origin, in this case the Western Cape where it is produced, giving it a degree of protection.

A certificate recognising its registration was handed to the provincial government on Monday.

SA Rooibos Council director Dawie de Villiers explained what the designation means for farmers and future sales of the product. “You can use it to your marketing advantage. In the case of rooibos, we obviously want to tell all the stories about the origins of rooibos and how it is produced to extract a premium price from the market,” he told Sunday Times Lifestyle.

“We didn’t know about the registration process. A French student came to SA in 2005 and started looking at products that might qualify for PDO and she identified rooibos.”

It’s not a quick fix. We’ve got to use the status and market that actively.
Dawie de Villiers, SA Rooibos Council 

Regarding whether the recognition may result in a premium price, much like champagne and Irish whiskey, De Villiers said it was hard to assess at this stage. 

“Its hard to know. Its like advertising — when you spend money you dont know what the immediate reaction will be. It didnt cost a huge amount to get it done. It was more effort and time, so the risk and reward is fairly favourable. The upside, we think, in terms of price, will be good. 

“It’s not a quick fix. Weve got to use the status and market that actively.”

De Villiers confirmed plans to apply for broader protection of rooibos with other trading organisations. If this is successful, it will extend the teas protection beyond the EU.

- Additional reporting by Reuters