Agricultural industry bodies and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development have hit back at weekend media reports which suggested that farmers who did not comply with certain BEE requirements would no longer be allowed to export to the EU and the UK.

At the same time, opposition parties have reacted with fury to the 'unprovoked economic masochism' of imposing trade barriers on the very export businesses that SA desperately needs to create more jobs. 

City Press and Rapport reported that ‘new rules’ were gazetted by the department two weeks ago which would exclude many farms from being able to export to these European markets based on their BEE status.

Similarly, industry bodies such as Hortgro, which represents the fruit industry, the SA Table Grape Industry, SA Wine and the agricultural business chamber pointed out that these rules were neither new, nor did they block white farmers from exporting to the EU and the UK.

BusinessLIVE reports that the department yesterday said that weekend reports ‘misrepresented the government’s message about the procedure and annual application for export permits to the EU and UK markets’.

The rules relate to economic partnership agreements between SA and other countries in the SADC which provide preferential and duty-free access to the EU and UK for agricultural produce and certain processed products.

‘These requirements are not new, and there is no threshold or level that an applicant must reach to be awarded a permit – the BBBEE status of the applicant is but one factor that must be considered in conjunction with all other factors,’ the department said.

In a letter to producers, Hortgro said black empowerment was part of the assessment requirements for exporters wanting to benefit from the quota.

Rico Basson, CEO of SA Wine, said in a statement on LinkedIn that BBBEE codes were are part of the methodology used in the application, but were not compulsory.

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