Importing new hybrid rice varieties and South Africa’s Plant Health and Phytosanitary Policy

South Africa and new rice introductions

South Africa is not part of the Africa-wide endeavour to grow hybrid rice, mainly because South Africa is not a rice-growing nation. All the rice consumed in South Africa is imported.

Shelves of packaged rice brands in a South African supermarket, all based on imported rice

In 2012, a South African scientific study showed that there were areas where rice could be grown, but this could only be possible with irrigation. Interestingly, the major suitable area was in the hot arid lands along the Orange River in the Northern Cape. This area has a high temperature, abundant irrigation water and no frost.  However, it is still much cheaper for South Africa to buy rice than to set up an entire new agricultural sector.

If South Africa were to participate in trials for any new rice varieties, South Africa’s Plant Health and Phytosanitary Policy (2014) would become applicable. The Phytosanitary Policy (2014) notes that plants can harbour damaging pests and diseases and regulations govern the risks and ways to control the introduction and spread of these risks. Regulations govern living plants and parts thereof, including seeds.     The South African rights are based on the UN FAO’s regulations of 1990 and the World Trade Organisation Agreement of the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.

The  South African Plant Breeders Rights Act 15 of 1976, protects the rights of breeders of new plant varieties. Although there is no direct link between the Agricultural Pests Act, 1983 and this Act, plants and seeds in international trade are subject to its terms. Unmanufactured material of plant origin (including grain) and those manufactured products that, by their nature or that of their processing, may create a risk for the introduction and spread of pests (FAO, 1990; revised IPPC, 1997; formerly plant product).

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