Karoo Lamb certification bid rejected, but it’s not over

The Home of Karoo Lamb Chops, by Just-Ice on Flickr Commons

The process to register Karoo Lamb/Karoo Lam as a Geographical Indication has stalled in the Great Karoo mud, with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries rejecting the application. However, it isn’t over. There’s another application in the pipeline – hopefully one that is inclusive of more voices this time. Key is that the department expects the application to include at least 50% of affected role players.

The application made by Meat of Origin Karoo to register Karoo Lamb/Karoo Lam as a Geographical Indication has been rejected by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

In replies to questions from Daily Maverick, the department said the application had been “submitted prematurely”, and that the applicant had “conceded”, in correspondence with the department, “that necessary steps (regulatory conditions) should have been undertaken before the requirements of the GI registration could be satisfied”.

In essence, the rejection, temporary as it might turn out to be, centres on the number of farmers and organisations that should by rights be canvassed, and heard, on a matter that concerns them.

These steps (regulatory conditions) include, according to the department:

(a) Forming of a Karoo lamb consortium composed of all interested Karoo lamb producers, abattoirs in the region and retailers;

(b) Scheduling a meeting with affected role-players to discuss and agree on a broader Karoo lamb protocol that is inclusive of the entire Karoo region;

(c) Obtaining buy-in from at least 50% of the affected role-players.

The (departmental) Executive Officer “concurred with the applicant that their application was premature in that those steps [which] should have preceded their application for GI registration had not been undertaken”.

The opportunity still existed, the department added, “for any group including the MOOK complying with the conditions stipulated in the regulations relating to the protection of Geographical Indications (No.R.447 dated 22 March 2019) to submit their application for the registration of this particular name as a GI”.

However, the chair of Meat of Origin Karoo, Professor Johan Kirsten, told TGIFood that the application was rejected because Meat of Origin Karoo, Woolworths, one other farmer and the department had met and reached a compromise to pause the application in order to have wider consultations on the rules to possibly govern the GI and to form an organisation which would manage the Geographical Indication.

Kirsten says the department had no choice but to reject the application in order, in effect, to pause it.

Kirsten went further, taking issue with the Woolworths factor in the debacle: “It is interesting that DAFF considered Woolworths as an important stakeholder despite the fact that they have not sold one single KAROO LAMB in their stores in the last 15 years. Their Quality indication ‘Woolworths Karoo Lamb’ registered with DAFF in 1995 or so has been dormant and not been audited by SAMIC or used by WWs for the past 15 years.

“It would be interesting to ask them why they are so shy in stocking true South African produce and proudly labelling it as Karoo Lamb. There is nothing that prevents them from doing so once the GI is registered but they always demand that it should be done according to their prescripts which goes against the GI philosophy – the rules of the GI should be set by the stakeholders in the region.

“This is an interesting issue of IP control – who controls the IP? WWs or the farmers. I would say the farmers in the Karoo controls the recipe and therefore the IP.”

To understand the application process thus far, read this

Meat of Origin Karoo is preparing to relaunch their revised application. They are inviting farmers to meet with them in De Aar in the Free State on 28 February 2020 to plot the way forward and agree on the details of the application.

They are planning to establish “a so-called inter-professional association” to manage the Geographical Indication process complete with directors, “articles of association” and auditors. They will agree on revised rules for Geographical Indication registration which they will submit to the department again after the meeting.

Slow Food South Africa committee member and author Gordon Wright has called the rejection and the reassessment of the application a “major win” for the Karoo.

“We encourage all parties concerned and particularly all Karoo Lamb farmers to ensure that they include themselves with the process going forward and to ensure that they, MOOK and DAFF agree on a workable and practical outcome to the benefit of all producers of authentic Karoo lamb,” said Wright.

“Slow Food Karoo and indeed, Slow Food International, are huge proponents of protecting biodiversity and wholistic, traditional agricultural practises, such as extensive Karoo Lamb farming.

If all role-players work together towards this common goal, the whole region will benefit, as will the environment”. DM



Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted