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Government | Bloomberg | 13 November 2023

This article has been updated with the government’s response to the reports.

Government responds to reports on BBE targets for farm exports in South Africa

South African farms deemed “too white” will no longer be able to export their produce to the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU), according to postings in the Government Gazette, the Johannesburg-based City Press newspaper reported.

Under the rules, farmers must meet specific Black economic empowerment targets to continue obtaining export permits.

The guidelines will apply to agricultural businesses with a minimum annual turnover of R10 million ($534,000) or more. Milk, cream, butter, fruit, nuts, sugar, jam, fruit purée, fruit juices, yeast, table grapes and wine are among the products affected, according to the notice.

Southern African Agri Initiative (Saai), a farmers’ lobbying group, told City Press that the rules would undermine investor security, job creation and growth in the nation’s agricultural sector.

Further, the measures fall “far outside the framework of internationally acceptable protocols, and the lobby will fight against it in every local and international forum, in courts and multilateral agencies of the UN and the African Union,” City Press reported, citing Theo de Jager, head of Saai.

Democratic Alliance, the biggest opposition party in South Africa, lodged a complaint with the trade offices of the EU and the UK, arguing that the regulations violate the rules of fair trade. South Africa’s agreements with the EU and the UK are explicitly premised upon protecting human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, the alliance said.

South African agricultural exports were about R240 billion ($12.8 billion) in 2022, with 20% headed to the EU and 4% to the UK.

South African companies have been encouraged to adopt Black-empowerment plans to comply with government policies aimed at redressing financial inequality stemming from the apartheid era.

Government denies reports

South Africa’s government rejected the reports.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development publishes procedural requirements for export permits annually, it said in a statement sent by text message on Monday. They include complying with sanitary, phytosanitary requirements, rules of origin and other factors contained in bilateral agreements, the department said.

The articles “misrepresented the government’s message about the procedure and annual application for export permits,” it said.

“These requirements are not new, and there is no threshold or level that an applicant must reach to be awarded a permit.”

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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