If European authorities cannot be persuaded otherwise, South African citrus worth hundreds of millions of rand, already underway to European ports, could be destroyed on arrival.
This, as new cold-treatment regulations for citrus from South Africa were published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 21 June to be applied from the day after tomorrow (Thursday, 14 July 2022).
According to Deon Joubert, special envoy for market access and EU matters for the Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa (CGA), farmers and exporters are concerned about 3.2 million cartons of citrus valued at R605 million that are currently on their way to Europe.
In a statement released yesterday, he says that the shipments have been issued with phytosanitary certificates based on South Africa’s existing approach. “These shipments will reach the EU after 14 July, by which time the EU’s new phytosanitary requirements will apply.”
He adds that the enforcement of these new regulations a mere 23 days after publication, makes it impossible for South African growers to comply.
Recap: Why the change in rules?
The EU’s Standing Committee on Plant, Animal, Food and Feed (SCOPAFF) published what the local industry calls “drastic, and arguably misinformed” new regulations despite objections from various countries, including European markets that currently import South African oranges.
Leaders in the local industry feel that the rules were politically motivated to secure the European market for Spanish citrus growers, rather than prevent false codling moth (FCM) interceptions from South Africa.
The new rules make extensive changes to current phytosanitary requirements for South African citrus and require that imports of citrus fruit must undergo mandatory cold treatment up to 25 days before being shipped.
“These new requirements differ significantly from South Africa’s existing rigorous FCM Risk Management System, which has been highly effective in protecting European production from the threat of pest or disease, including FCM, over several years and is supported by the results of scientific studies published in international peer-reviewed scientific journals,” the CGA says.
Freezing out South African citrus
“South Africa is currently engaging with its counterparts in the EU to reconsider these regulations [because] they carry no technical weight and appear to be nothing more than a politically motivated move by Spanish producers to freeze out Southern Africa citrus from the European market,” Joubert says.
Even if correctly shipped, a significant portion of South Africa’s commercial orange production will not be able to withstand the new prescribed cold treatment. Organic and “chem-free” oranges are particularly prone to chilling injury and will be most severely impacted.
The CGA believes this will not only result in large gaps in the supply chain and higher prices for European consumers but will also severely threaten the sustainability and profitability of the South African citrus industry.
“The CGA, in conjunction with the South African government, will continue lobbying against this restrictive legislation, which effectively pose the equivalent of a trade block for Southern African states,” Joubert says in his statement. “It would be unconscionable if political agendas result in millions of cartons of top-quality citrus being destroyed.”
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