By NDUMISO MLILO in Johannesburg, South Africa |

South Africa has welcomed the Chinese government’s decision to reduce tariffs on imports of rooibos tea, a major agricultural export commodity, said a South African government official.

China slashed the tariffs on rooibos tea, which were ranging from 15 percent to 30 percent, to 6 percent. Last August, South Africa’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel discussed the duties on rooibos tea with Chinese officials during the eighth meeting of the China-South Africa Joint Economic and Trade Commission, asking China to reclassify rooibos tea. The Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council of China has adopted a new tariff code for rooibos with an import duty of 6 percent.

“China is currently South Africa’s largest global trading partner. We look forward to continuing our engagements with our Chinese counterparts as we seek to shift our exports from mainly minerals to a greater basket of value-added agricultural and industrial products,” said Patel.

Rooibos tea, a specialty in South Africa, is a manufactured herbal tea that is rich in antioxidants. According to the South African Rooibos Council, the tea does not contain caffeine and can be consumed by children, infants and breastfeeding mothers.

South Africa exports rooibos tea to 45 countries and China was the seventh-largest market in 2023. More than 20,000 metric tons of rooibos tea is produced in South Africa every year, creating jobs for over 5,000 people, according to the country’s rooibos council. Patel said the exports of rooibos tea to China and other parts of the world are helping create jobs in the country.

More jobs

“Our rooibos tea is refreshing, delicious and healthy. This decision will enable more South African rooibos tea to be available for Chinese tea drinkers, creating more jobs in South Africa. Rooibos exporters can now ramp up their exports of tea to China,” Patel said.

South Africa and China have maintained good relations, having officially established diplomatic relations on Jan 1, 1998. Trade between South Africa and China has grown from $1.6 billion in 1998 to $57 billion in 2022.

South Africa exports beef, citrus, wine, oysters, rooibos tea and many other products to China. More than 400,000 jobs have been created in South Africa from the $25 billion investment made by Chinese enterprises.

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