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Agricultural Product Standards Bill Heading for Parliament

May 24, 2021

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

The Draft Agricultural Product Standards Amendment Bill is heading for parliament.

The agriculture, land reform and rural development department published the draft bill’s explanatory summary in Government Gazette 44603.

Cabinet approved the bill in May 2021 for tabling in parliament.

According to the cabinet statement, the Draft Agricultural Products Standards Amendment Bill provides for the control of sales and exports of certain agricultural products and promotes food safety.

It also seeks to strengthen the regulatory framework for agricultural production, health and food safety of certain agricultural products and tighten the control systems in areas of labelling claims in products for sale and introduce different inspections and auditing methods.

The draft bill seeks to amend the Agricultural Product Standards Act, 1990, so as to:

• insert definitions and substitute others;
• provide for auditing of a product for management control systems;
• make provision for the setting of tariffs by assignees on cost recovery basis;
• make further provisions for the Minister to make regulations pertaining to audit and management control systems; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

According to the explanatory summary, the department plans to table the draft bill during the second quarter of 2021.

In Gazette 44604, the department published the Draft Plant Health (Phytosanitary) Bill’s explanatory summary.

Cabinet also approved the draft bill in May 2021 for tabling in parliament.

According to cabinet, the draft bill seeks to promote safety regarding the movement of plant products for export and import and amend measures that prevent the introduction of foreign quarantine pests and diseases and regulate non-quarantine pests.

The draft bill seeks to:

• provide for phytosanitary measures to prevent the introduction, establishment and spread of regulated pests in the Republic;
• provide for the control of regulated pests;
• provide for regulation of the movement of plants, plant products and other regulated articles into, within and out of the Republic; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

The department plans to table the draft bill during the second quarter of 2021.

Meanwhile, in a briefing on the Liquor Products Amendment Bill in parliament, the department provided responses to comments made by the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL).

In March 2021, the bill was reclassified by the Joint Tagging Mechanism in parliament as a section 75 bill and as a bill falling within the ambit of section 18(1) of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act.

It was also referred to the NHTL for comment.

President Ramaphosa sent the bill back to parliament for reconsideration in June 2020.

The bill was passed by parliament and sent to the president for assent in June 2018.

The national assembly passed the bill and sent it to the national council of provinces for concurrence in October 2017.

The bill was tabled in parliament in July 2016.

The proposed legislation seeks to amend the Liquor Products Act in order to:

• insert certain definitions and to amend and delete others;
• provide for the renaming and reconstitution of the Wine and Spirit Board and to limit its powers;
• provide for requirements regarding beer, traditional African beer and other fermented beverages;
• repeal a provision in respect of the authorisations regarding certain alcoholic products;
• empower the Minister to designate a person to issue export certificates;
• align certain provisions with the constitution;
• extend the ministers power to make regulations;
• provide gender-equal terminology; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

According to an earlier statement from the presidency, the bill should have been referred to the NHTL as the bill contains a new section on requirements regarding traditional African beer.

“The President’s view is based on the fact that traditional beer is an intrinsic part of a number of cultural practices.

Customary practices require that the production and consumption of such beverages be effected in a particular manner.”

The president holds the view that the bill will regulate how traditional beer is produced thereby affecting its production, distribution and consumption.

In the briefing, the department pointed out that the reference in clause 1 to the definition of “traditional African beer” as referring to a product which meets requirements specified in section 6C is incorrect and should be amended to section 6B.

Other comments include:

• Traditional African beer definition is based on existing definitions in the Liquor Acts (Act 27 of 1989 and Act 59 of 2003). Provision is made for the addition of different ingredients by way of secondary legislation (regulation). This provides flexibility.
• The object of the bill is to include traditional African beer, produced for commercial purposes, under the Liquor Products Act. The production in terms of customary law or customs of traditional communities will not be affected by the provisions of the Bill.
• This will make sure traditional African beer, produced for sale to the public, is safe for human consumption, safe and hygienic containers are used, labels are not misleading and provide sufficient information to the consumer, e.g. alcohol content and health warnings.
• Traditional communities will still be able to make traditional African beer for private consumption and customary use in any way they see fit, including using different ingredients. The responsibility for such products lies with the individual.
• Although there is an existing broad definition for traditional African beer under the Liquor Act, the quality and food safety of traditional African beer produced for sale is not prescribed, controlled or enforced by any government department.
• In principle, traditional African beer powder should not be excluded as the sale of beer powder to children under the age of 18 is a problem. Excluding traditional African beer powder will have the unintended consequence that the powder (that becomes alcohol when water is added) can be sold in cafes and any shop with easy access to children and vulnerable communities.
• If Parliament, however, agrees with the NHTL to exclude traditional African beer from the bill, then traditional African beer powder should also be excluded as a result.
• The department recommends approval of the bill in its current format – therefore include a definition for traditional African beer and traditional African beer powder.