?A storm in a flower-pot?

A PIONEERING deal between South Africa’s National Botanical Institute (NBI) and a US horticultural company which ?sells off the country?s botanical heritage? will be scrutinised by the environmental department.

Environmental Affairs and Tourism Director General Crispian Olver said the department’s legal advisers would re-examine the deal, which allows Ball Horticultural Company of Chicago, Illinois, access to 25 of South Africa’s 22_000 indigenous species a year for horticultural development and modification.

This step follows a public outcry sparked by media reports that the agreement could damage the local horticultural industry and ecotourism.

Brian Huntley, chief executive officer of the NBI, dismissed the furore as a “storm in a flower pot”.

Olver said he was confident that “nobody is disadvantaged in any way” by the two-year-old deal, up for review in three years.

In the meantime, he said: “Nothing in the deal prevents South African companies from exploiting the resources. Before, nothing stopped (foreign) companies from taking our resources without giving anything back.”

Olver said it had been approved by the national and provincial environmental departments and conservation authorities.

Huntley has stated that billions of rand worth of flora had been sold overseas without any royalties coming to South Africa.

He said that if Ball succeeded, the NBI would receive royalties of up to 10 percent on sales.

Huntley said the deal gave South Africa a partner in the $100bn global horticultural industry and allowed Ball access to less than 0.1 percent of the country’s floral wealth.

But the Cape Chamber of Commerce has called for a review of the agreement, expressing concern that it could undermine local economic development and job creation. - AFP

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