SA rooibos tea on demand
South African farmers are lining up to plant more rooibos tea as demand for the anti-oxidant-rich red brew it produces grows, but a natural limit on suitable land may mean supply will struggle to keep pace.
In 2018, farmers planted almost 65 000 hectares of rooibos, which only grows in a small, drought-stricken part of South Africa's southern tip.
That was up 12% on 2017, itself a record year, according to industry body The Rooibos Council.
The global herbal tea market is growing at 7% per year, according to data from Euro monitor International, and rooibos with an established reputation for carrying health-giving properties is increasingly popular.
Some established farmers expanded their harvests in 2018 while others grew the crop for the first time. Rooibos processors are trying to project a picture of a maturing industry able to deliver security of supply to global brands like Nestle and Unilever.
Years of dry weather throttled yields and pushed the price of the tea up by 18.5% in 2018, but some producers now expect supplies to replenish, helping them venture into new markets including in Asia and the Middle East.