China rooibos tea

China Lowers Tariffs on Rooibos Tea

In a recent announcement made on January 9th that could result in positive growth for the rooibos sector, China has instituted lower tariffs on rooibos tea. 

In its statement on the adjustment of tariffs on rooibos products, the country’s Department of Trade, Industry and Competition said in a statement that duties on South Africa’s unique indigenous herbal tea were to be lowered to 6%, from a previous range that saw rooibos tea incurring tariffs between 15% and 30%.

With the industry producing approximately 20,000 tons per year and providing  employment to 5,000 people, this adjustment could have a positive impact on the sector as exports to the world’s 7th-largest tea consuming market enjoy lower costs. 

As one of the world’s largest tea producers and consumers, the Chinese market has long been one of significant interest for rooibos producers and brands. And, though rooibos has historically ranked far below traditional ‘black tea’ volumes, in recent years the market for rooibos in China has grown in leaps and bounds, as its caffeine-free and health-giving qualities have become better known within Chinese-speaking territories that include mainland China, Hong Kong, and also Taiwan.  

China rooibos tea import

According to Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel, the tea trade between South Africa, and the rest of the world is valued at roughly R1-billion. With China having the world’s second-largest population, making inroads into the Chinese tea market could see South Africa enjoying major economic benefit. 

With the announcement of substantial reduction in tariffs on imports of rooibos tea, Patel’s hope is that exports to China may grow to match one of those of South Africa’s biggest tea importers, Japan.

“We already sell something of the order of R400-million worth of tea globally and the tea market is big. We buy R600-million worth of tea and Rooibos is a great product and we see its beginning to take off around the world,” says Patel.

“China is the world’s biggest market so if we can grow there we can create jobs back home. China’s just making it in SA’s list of top 10 countries we sell rooibos to. The trade between SA and the rest of the world is worth about R1-billion…” he says. 

For further detail on the world’s largest markets for rooibos tea, see the Rooibos Importers series of articles on our Resources page.