• Rooibos, Aspalathus linearis, is a natural herb found in the Cape fynbos biome. It is cultivated commercially mainly in the Cedarberg region north west of Cape Town. The plant thrives on coarse sandy soil and winter rainfall.
  • It is called rooibos (‘red bush’) or Red Tea because of its colour when dried. It has a refreshing flavour and sweetish aroma, is caffeine-free and lower in tannin than black and other teas. Its anti-allergy, antioxidant and antimutagenic properties make it a healthy alternative to most hot drinks.
  • Rooibos and honeybush teas (see separate chapter) and their health properties are valued in beverages, food flavourants, functional foods, nutraceuticals and cosmetics. Indeed, rooibos and honeybush have more than 300 trademarks and 20 patents to their names (Red Dawn IP Holdings, 2016).
  • Exports could be further developed through new value-added products while, as the website http://rooibos-route.co.za shows, agro-tourism also represents a development opportunity.

International business environment

  • Traditionally grown in South Africa, in the Cederberg mountains north of Cape Town, rooibos is today worth an estimated R600-million. South Africa began exporting the tea in 1904.
  • Rooibos’ popularity has greatly increased which led to companies abroad in America and France making audacious bids to trademark the name. After negotiations, South Africa won geographic indicator status giving rooibos tea manufacturers of South Africa which will have ownership of that particular name and that term will be applicable only to products that come from this country. (Geographic indicator status is enjoyed by the likes of champagne, Darjeeling tea and Colombian coffee).
  • The same trademark protection will apply to honeybush, another tea indigenous to the Cape region, and Karoo lamb. In turn Pretoria was forced to make a concession on feta cheese which has been protected since 2002.
Source: www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/28/rooibos-tea-trademark-awarded-south-africa-deal-eu 

 

South Africa: imports and exports

Rooibos is exported to more than 30 countries across the globe. Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America are the biggest importers of Rooibos. The increasing global demand for Rooibos pushed exports up to more than 6 000 tons per annum (SARC, 2019).

The annual A Profile of the South African Rooibos Market Value Chain (see “Websites & publications” heading) over several pages analyses the major export destinations of rooibos tea from South Africa.

Local business environment

  • Rooibos provides income and employment to more than 5 000 people in South Africa
  • On average, about 14 000 tons of Rooibos are produced in South Africa per year
  • The demand for and consumption of Rooibos in South African is around around 8000 tons.
  • The increasing global demand for Rooibos pushed exports up to more than 6 000 tons per annum
  • If both the export and local volumes are sold and enjoyed as pure Rooibos, this would be equal to 5,6 billion cups of tea
  • Rooibos is exported to more than 30 countries across the globe. Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America are the biggest importers of Rooibos.
  • The prolonged drought in the Western Cape is having a devastating effect on this sector.
Source: http://sarooibos.co.za/industry-statistics/ 

Further reading:

  • The Rooibos Industry Fact Sheet, prepared by the Rooibos Council in 2017, is still relevant and provides a very useful overview of rooibos production in the country. http://sarooibos.co.za/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/20170706-SARC-Fact-Sheetv2.pdf
  • The annual A Profile of the South African Rooibos Market Value Chain (see “Websites and publications” heading), as the name suggests, takes a comprehensive look at the rooibos tea value chain, which includes a SWOT analysis.

For the newcomer

Rooibos seeds are sown between February to March and the seedlings transplanted a few months later. It takes about 18 months before plants can be harvested for the first time. Each spring the plant is covered with small yellow flowers. Each flower produces a small legume with a single seed inside. The Rooibos seeds pop out when they are ripe and can therefore be difficult to collect. Early Rooibos farmers got hold of the local wisdom that ants harvested the seeds and that they could collect Rooibos seeds from anthills. Today, most farmers collect the seeds by sifting the sand around the plants.

During the summer harvest, the plants are cut to about 30 cm from the ground. After three to five harvests, the Rooibos plantation must be re-established.

The harvested shoots are bound into sheaves and cut to less than 4 mm. The green leaves and stems are either bruised and “fermented” in heaps (to produce traditional Rooibos) or immediately dried to prevent oxidation (for green Rooibos). The “fermentation” process involves oxidation, brought about by enzymes naturally present in the plant. During this process the product changes from green to a deep amber colour and develops its distinctive aroma. After fermentation the Rooibos is spread out to dry in the sun.

The Rooibos is sorted and graded according to length, colour, flavour and aroma. All Rooibos, whether for domestic use or the export market, is steam pasteurized to ensure a product of high microbial quality. The product is then sent in bulk (loose tea leaves) to various packers and exporters in South Africa.

Source: http://sarooibos.co.za/faq/#toggle-id-6

National strategy and government contact

The right for South Africa to secure geographical indicator status for rooibos tea has been granted, opening the way for “aggressive expansion” (DTI, 2015) of rooibos exports into new markets. In the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) 2018/19 – 2020/21, Rooibos featured in the Key Action Programmes. The intention was “Increased brand recognition and global demand for rooibos tea and value-added products for food, medicinal and cosmetic use, creating higher revenues along the value Chain”. Find the document at www.thedti.gov.za.

  • Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) Directorate Marketing Tel: 012 319 8455 www.daff.gov.za
  • National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) Tel: 012 341 1115 www.namc.co.za

Role players

 

Associations

 

Training and research

Find the research option under “News & Research” at www.sarooibos.co.za.

  • AgriSETA Tel: 012 301 5600 www.agriseta.co.za Learnerships and apprenticeships are a combination of on-the-job learning along with some theoretical training. The major part of the training can be offered on the farm. Several exist for Rooibos production and processing. Find information on learnerships in the “Agricultural education & training” chapter, or at www.agriseta.co.za (under “Skills delivery” option).
  • ARC-Infruitec/Nietvoorbij Dr Elizabeth Joubert Tel: 021 809 3100/444 joubertL [at] arc.agric.za
  • ARC-Plant Protection Research Dr Sandra Lamprecht Tel: 021 887 4690 lamprechtS [at] arc.agric.za
  • ARC-Small Grains Dr Justin Hatting Tel: 058 307 3400 / 68 hattingJ [at] arc.agric.za
  • Cape Peninsula University of Technology Antioxidant Unit Dr Jeanine Marnewick Tel: 021 953 8416 marnewickJ [at] cput.ac.za
  • Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute Tel: 021 808 5111 www.elsenburg.com
  • South African Medical Research Council Tel: 021 938 0911 www.mrc.ac.za
  • Nelson Mandela University Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology Tel: 041 504 2441 http://biomicro.mandela.ac.za/
  • Stellenbosch University (i) Department of Biochemistry Tel: 021 808 5861 (ii) Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology Tel 021 808 3728 samways [at] sun.ac.za (iii) Department of Food Science Tel: 021 808 3578 www.sun.ac.za
  • University of the Free State Department of Agricultural Economics Tel: 051 401 2824 www.ufs.ac.za/agri-econ

 

Companies and growers

 

Environmental and other service providers:

  • Agribusiness in Sustainable Natural African Plant Products (ASNAPP) Tel: 021 808 2918 www.asnapp.org
  • CapeNature Tel: 021 483 0000 www.capenature.co.za The SA Rooibos Council partners with CapeNature on biodiversity initiatives.
  • Ecocert Southern Africa Tel: 021 883 2299 http://southafrica.ecocert.com Organic certification
  • Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) Tel: 021 448 2881 www.emg.org.za
  • Natura Libra Environmental Consultants Tel: 022 482 1500 / 082 450 2571 Find the Rooibos Biodiversity Initiative (RBI) prepared by Gerhard Pretorius under heading 7.
  • UTZ Certified www.utzcertified.org 

Websites and publications

Visit the websites listed earlier in this chapter.

  • Find the Rooibos Biodiversity Initiative (RBI)’s Biodiversity Best Practice Guidelines for the Sustainable Production of Rooibos at www.cepf.net/Documents/rooibosguidelines.pdf
  • Handbook for Implementing Rooibos Sustainability Standards, compiled by the South African Rooibos Council and the World Wildlife Fund’s GreenChoice Alliance. The book is available in English and Afrikaans from both organisations.
  • Find the annual A Profile of the South African Rooibos Market Value Chain on the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Directorate Marketing’s web pages at www.daff.gov.za. Also available is Brochure rooibos tea among the brochures and production guidelines under “Resource Centre” on the same website.
  • “Market research on the organic and natural products and fynbos industry – with an emphasis on how to facilitate entry”, done for the Surplus People Project by Marianna Smith, includes a study of rooibos. Visit www.spp.org.za.
  • Find videos on YouTube like “The story of Rooibos – the production process” and “Why you should drink red bush tea”.
  • Find news of the DVDs Adapting to the wild side: Climate friendly rooibos and Everybody’s cup of tea – Living sustainably in a dry land at www.emg.org.za. The latter “documents the challenges facing small-scale Rooibos farmers in the Suid-Bokkeveld, their subsequent decision to form a co-operative to market their organic and fair-trade certified tea, and the benefits this has brought to the community”.

 

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