Better coordination and collaboration can speed up the process of resolving Botswana and Namibia's ban on South African vegetable exports. For this reason, the participation of key role players from different spheres of government dealing with market access issues is essential to speedily identify and resolve market access challenges.
Botswana and Namibia's recent unilateral decision to block some fruit and vegetable exports from South Africa is unfortunate and contradicts the existing Southern African Customs Union (SACU) trade agreement.
In 2021 the Western Cape's total vegetable export to the SACU totalled R268 million, with seventy-five per cent of this destined for Namibia and Botswana.
Import tariffs and non-tariff barriers continue to represent critical barriers to South Africa's agricultural exports. Importantly, they should never become arbitrary or unjustifiable. However, when they do, they pose a discriminatory challenge for an export market, countering the benefits of a duty-free trade formed through customs unions or regional economic regions.
While trade diplomacy is facilitated at a national government level with the partner country, leveraging the relationships that the Western Cape Department of Agriculture (WCDoA) has established through its commodity approach model could streamline processes to speed up discussion among role players.
Informed by the commodity approach model, the WCDoA has signed agreements with various industries, including the vegetable industry. These agreements aim to ensure private sector participation in developing and advancing the agricultural sector and should be leveraged for our agricultural exporters' benefit.
In the interim, the WCDoA will continue its various market development activities to expand in other potential markets in Africa in collaboration with the private sector.