South African rooibos tea industry pays out to Indigenous people

South Africa’s rooibos tea industry paid 12.2 million rand ($716,000) to groups representing indigenous people in the country, part of a benefit-sharing agreement to recognize the original cultivators of the plant.

A levy of 1.5% of the farm gate price of the herbal tea will be paid into a trust each year controlled by the Khoi and San people, the South African Rooibos Council said in a statement. The funds will be used to improve the lives of those communities.

The move — the result of a lengthy discussions going back to an agreement in 2019 — is the latest example of South African industries and companies acknowledging the rights and contributions of people who lived in the country before Dutch settlers started to arrive in the 17th century.

The Khoi and San people have also been protesting against the planned new Africa headquarters of US e-commerce giant Inc. in Cape Town, which they say is being built on sacred ground. South Africa’s High Court temporarily halted construction in March pending further engagement with the communities.

Rooibos is farmed mainly in an area between 200 kilometers (125 miles) and 300 kilometers north of Cape Town and thought to have health and beauty benefits. It is exported to 30 countries and provides employment and income to 5,000 people in South Africa, according to the SARC. In 2014, Rooibos tea was granted geographical indication status in the EU, which gave manufacturers in South Africa full ownership of the name.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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