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Storm in a teacup between EU and South Africa

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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Storm in a teacup between EU and South Africa

A trademark system which is used to protect Europe’s finest wines, cheeses and hams - the trade protection system called Geographic Indications (GIs) - could be soon used to protect a South African red tea, locally known as rooibos (Afrikaans for red bush), as a French firm is trying to secure the exclusive rights to market it in France.
The issue has been elevated to diplomatic level between the European Union and South Africa at a time when both parties hope to finally conclude negotiations on updating their wide-ranging trade framework, after more than a decade of discussion.
Soekie Snyman, the spokeswoman for the South African Rooibos Council, which represents rooibos producers, told that firstly the red tea needed to receive official trademark status in South Africa itself before it could qualify as a GI.
South African rooibos is caffeine-free, high in anti-oxidants and minerals, and traditionally grown in the Cederberg region, 250 kilometres to the north of Cape Town. It is growing in popularity worldwide due to its healthy properties, which helps to explain the French company’s (called Compagnie de Trucy’s) move to obtain marketing rights.
There is a range of other South African products that might also be eligible for GI protection, such as ostrich and springbok meat, and the marula fruit from which the Amarula liquor is made. Meanwhile, the same criteria could apply to produce from other countries of the Southern African region – such as Mozambican prawns, Botswana beef and Namibian oysters.
“It is important for South Africa to penetrate world markets, and we must look at niche products like rooibos,” a trade consultant who specialises in trade protection issues, said. “That’s the future of trade – it’s where you make your money. Rooibos is important for the rural economy, and it is a health product, so there is a growing market for it”, he added.
A recent study in Europe has shown that EU GIs are worth €54.3 billion worldwide, and they represent 15 % of EU total food and drinks exports.
The next Brussels Development Briefing, which will be held on May 15th in Brussels, will tackle the topic of ‘Food, geography, traditions: Protecting agricultural traditional products’.
More details on: http://brusselsbriefings.net/

Source: IPS News