Rooibos now recognized as a Geographical Indicator (GI) by the European Commission

The European Commission now recognises Rooibos as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Geographical Indicator (GI).

The authenticity and quality of rooibos has become fully visible for European and global consumers, with benefits for South African producers and the rural communities living and working on rooibos farms.

Rooibos is the first African food to join Champagne, Irish Whiskey, Porto, and other iconic products in the European Commission register of protected designations of origin (PDO) and protected geographical indications (GI).

A protected designation of origin is an indicator that identifies and links a particular product to a particular region or locality; the product quality, reputation or other unique characteristic is directly linked to that geographical area. Registered product names have the strongest links to their origin, since every aspect of production; processing and preparation must take place in that specific origin using recognised know-how.

The registration means ‘Rooibos’ or ‘Red Bush’ can only be used to refer to the dried leaves of 100% pure ‘Rooibos’/’Red Bush’ derived from Aspalathus linearis that has been cultivated or wild-harvested in designated local municipalities of the Western and Northern Cape. ‘Rooibos’/’Red Bush’ may be blended with teas, infusions or other products, whether or not for human consumption.

Food products listed on the EU register of protected designations of origins generate almost R1.24 trillion in value. Bilateral agreements between the EU and its international partners, including between the EU and China, recognise the protected designations of origin. The recognition of the products’ origin empowers consumers to distinguish quality products and trust that they are enjoying authentic quality products linked to the region of origin, knowledge, and know-how of its producers.

Rooibos / Red Bush is the first African food to receive the status of a protected designation of origin in the EU register. The registration was hailed by the South African Rooibos Council, the Western Cape government, and the Delegation of the European Union to South Africa.

According to the EU’s ambassador to South Africa, Dr Riina Kionka, “The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that solid trade relations are critical to ensuring the continuous and uninterrupted supply of safe, nutritious, affordable and sustainable food as well as to providing essential income and jobs along food value chains. Therefore, South Africa and EU preferential trade relations are so important.”

“These relations include the protection of Geographical Indications which enable a stronger connection between unique local food products and European consumer tastes. This has direct benefits for all involved in South Africa and in the EU. Geographic indications offer a valuable competitive advantage that is difficult to erode, so we are delighted that Rooibos has been approved as the first African product on the EU register of protected designation of origin (PDO).”

Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, notes: “Rooibos is one of the most iconic products of the Western Cape and its inclusion in the PDO register will signal its unique quality to consumers, not only in Europe but all over the world. We expect that this will lead to an increase in demand by discerning consumers with the benefits working their way back to farms in the designated production area.”

Adds Dr Mogale Sebopetsa, Head of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture: “We have been working with the Rooibos Industry since the 1990s to prevent the name ‘Rooibos’ from being misused by others. The inclusion of Rooibos / Red Bush in the register recognises the fact that it can only be produced in parts of the Western Cape and Northern Cape provinces. In this way, our heritage is safeguarded for posterity and will benefit the producers in our region.”

Dawie de Villiers, SA Rooibos Council legal director, says inclusion in the EU register is a “big win” for the Rooibos industry and South Africa. “The registration will allow Rooibos to use the protected designation of origins logo, which is well-recognised by consumers in Europe. The logo will identify Rooibos as a unique product.” He says the registration will afford the industry greater ability to protect Rooibos’ trademark worldwide.

De Villiers also notes that the registration will go a long way towards sustaining the Rooibos industry. Higher consumption of Rooibos because of increased recognition will contribute to the preservation of traditional knowledge and further uplift small-scale farmers in the indigenous communities producing Rooibos.

“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, which is why we so doggedly pursued the registration. Rooibos also forms part of SA’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,” says De Villiers.

Click here to view the registration document.