South African hardy Rooibos tea explodes globally

Anyone who has grown up in South Africa knows the distinctive taste and smell of Rooibos. Rooibos, which is Afrikaans for red bush, is a caffeine- free herbal tea rich in antioxidants, fluoride and calcium; unique to the Western Cape province of South Africa. The leaves have been used in traditional medicines and these days, rooibos has even been found to be useful in various cosmetic products.

It was during World War II when Allied nations were having trouble getting tea from Asian countries that Rooibos first found itself popular on a global scale. Since then, the versatility of Rooibos has seen it move from a niche market to being more mainstream. One contributing factor for this is that people are becoming more health-conscious about what they put in their bodies meaning that tea consumption is increasing globally.

According to the South African Rooibos Council, rooibos tea now constitutes approximately 10 percent of the herbal tea market and 1 percent of a global tea market. What this comes down to is an estimated value of $23 billion. With these kinds of figures, it comes as no surprise that the 600 or so growers of rooibos are very busy indeed. Production of the crop has tripled in the past decade and farmers have had to expand plantings to meet the demand from companies such as Nestle SA (NESN) and Starbucks Corp (SBUX).

Not everything is rosy however as research commissioned by the government has shown that temperatures in South Africa may increase by as much as 3 percent and rainfall may drop by as much as 10 percent by 2050. Figures like these leave people such as Martin Berg, managing director of Rooibos Ltd, with the opinion that they would be “in trouble”. However, not everyone feels there is a need to panic yet. Guy Midgley, head of the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s climate and bio-adaptation unit, said, “The risk will definitely rise in the longer term, but that’s two decades out.”

Categories : Current Affairs  |  Tags : ,