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LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
26 October 2005
INTERNATIONAL PLANT PROTECTION CONVENTION: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Department Briefing on International Plant Protection Convention
International Plant Protection Convention: New Revised Text
The Department of Agriculture briefed the Committee on the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), a treaty for international cooperation in plant protection. The IPPC was revised in 1997. South Africa currently only had observer status, as the new text had not yet been accepted by the country. Membership of the IPPC and participation in its activities would support South Africa’s agricultural industries. IPPC membership would also provide access to technical assistance, capacity building and dispute resolution procedures. The Department recommended that South Africa should accept the New Revised Text of the IPPC.
After discussing exports of crafts, the convention’s financial implications and the detection of pests and diseases from other countries, the Committee recommended that the House approve the new text.
The minutes for 6, 13 and 14 September 2005 were adopted.
Department of Agriculture briefing
Dr Marinda Visser (Department of Agriculture: Directorate Plant Health) briefed the Committee on the International Plant Protection Convention. South Africa was a signatory member of the World Trade Organisation Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (WTO-SPS agreement) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). The WTO-SPS agreement came into being in 1995 and set out the basic rules for global agriculture trade. It recognised three standard setting bodies, of which the IPPC was one.
The IPPC was a multilateral treaty for international cooperation in plant protection, whose purpose was to "secure common and effective action to prevent the spread and introduction of pests of plants and plant products, and to promote appropriate measures for their control."
The IPPC was revised in 1997 so that it could be brought in line with the WTO-SPS agreement of 1995. The text was approved and South Africa participated in the process. South Africa currently only had observer status, as the new text had not yet been accepted.
The IPPC gave Contracting Parties the right to regulate imports in respect of plant health. Regulatory measures should only be applied when necessary and measures should be consistent with the risk and least restrictive, based on scientific facts, non-discriminatory and transparent.
Contracting Parties should: set up and administer a National Plant Protection Organisation and official IPPC contact point, cooperate internationally and share information, develop and take phytosanitary standards into account, conduct plant health treatments and certify exports and regulate imports.
The IPPC made provision for trade in a plant protection agreement and the WTO-SPS made complementary provision for phytosanitary protection in a trade agreement.
Membership of the IPPC and participation in its activities would support South Africa’s agricultural industries in terms of maintaining the principles of free, fair and safe trade in accordance with WTO obligations and would provide access to international markets. It would also enable South Africa to influence important decisions on norms and standards. Furthermore, it would strengthen South Africa’s relationships with trading partners, regulatory credibility and leadership role in Africa. IPPC membership would therefore be important for the maintenance of a globally competitive position in international agricultural trade.
IPPC membership would also provide access to technical assistance and capacity building and also assist with dispute resolution procedures. National technical procedures could be included in the roster of experts used for consultation in disputes and various technical working groups.
The Department recommended that South Africa should accept the New Revised Text of the IPPC (1997) rather than forego its right to participate in international plant health standard setting procedures. They also recommended that South Africa should continue to actively participate in the IPPC structures.
Mr M Mzizi (IFP, Gauteng) said he was not against the acceptance of the IPPC, but he did not know what Dr Visser was talking about. He asked if she could explain. Dr Visser said the plant protection organisation had been set up as a cooperative agreement among countries to protect their plants against diseases and pests from other countries. The plants referred to included agricultural crops.
Mr L van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) asked what instrument the government had to deposit when accepting the revised text. Dr Visser responded that once the House had approved the convention, a document had to be sent by the Director General of Agriculture to state that South Africa had accepted the new revised text.
Mr Van Rooyen was concerned about the fairness of the convention and how it would affect South African exports. The export situation was not equal at the moment, as South Africans had difficulty exporting wooden crafts and proteas to the USA. He asked how the convention would equalise the market. Rural people used the craft market as a source of income. He asked how the new treaty would rectify the situation. Dr Visser said by being a member of the convention, South Africa could participate to reduce the imbalance in trade. Some progress had already been made. Dr Visser did not know if South Africans could export wooden crafts and proteas to the USA. She promised to inform the Committee.
Mr Tau (ANC, Northern Cape) asked what the financial implications of the convention would be for South Africa. Dr Visser said the benefits would by far outweigh the financial implications for South Africa. It would not make a dent in the South African economy.
Mr Mzizi asked if grass was included when the convention mentioned plants, as grass was also imported and exported. It could also be in danger, as carcasses left on grass could contaminate it. Dr Visser would have had to refer to the text to see if there was a mention of grass, but she did not want to get into technical aspects. She said the body handling animal health would be better suited to comment on the contamination of grass by carcasses.
The Chairperson asked how pests and diseases from other countries were detected upon entering South Africa. He also enquired about toxins in food and the environment. Dr Visser said they had divisions in the Department to deal with the matter. Once a consignment entered South Africa, there would be inspectors to go through any suspect materials. The Department had divisions who would keep the material in quarantine and do tests and assessments, and based on that destroy the material or let it through. They ensured nothing detrimental went through. The IPPC would provide further assistance, based on regulations. They had a policy and mechanisms in place do deal with toxins.
Mr Van Rooyen asked if it also applied to other countries to have certificates for their exports.
The Chairperson said South Africa had been a member previously. He asked why South Africa lost its membership and why it had to be rectified. Dr Visser said all countries had to have signed the new text by 2 October 2005. South Africa would thus not be a member from that date.
The Committee recommended that the House approve the new text of the convention.
Mr Van Rooyen requested that an answer on the export of crafts be supplied to the Committee.
Mr Tau proposed that the House did not have to debate the approval of the convention, but that only a statement had to be made. The Chairperson said he would make a statement.
Adoption of minutes
The minutes for 6 September 2005 were adopted.
The minutes for 13 September 2005 were adopted. After its adoption, Mr Krumbock (DA, Kwazulu-Natal) said the controversial issue of expropriation was not sufficiently captured in the minutes. Mr Van Rooyen said the minutes had already been adopted. Mr Van Rooyen also commented that the issue of expropriation was not controversial. Mr Krumbock retorted that Mr Van Rooyen’s comment was "rubbish" and the adoption of minutes should not reflect party-political viewpoints. Mr Tau complained about Mr Krumbock’s use of the strong word "rubbish" and asked that he retract it. The Chairperson also asked that he retract his comment, as it was not parliamentary. Mr Krumbock retracted his comment out of respect for the Chairperson.
The minutes for 14 September 2005 were adopted.
Mr Krumbock formally requested that his disquiet about the minutes of 13 September 2005 be noted in the minutes of the current meeting. The Chairperson assured him that it would be done.
The meeting was adjourned.
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