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Citrus growers under threat by EU

The future of the citrus industry in South Africa remains uncertain. Reacting to the stricter import requirements for South African citrus announced by the European Union this week, Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa chief executive Justin Chadwick said the long-term prospects for the citrus industry – which is an R8-billion foreign currency earner, creating 120000 jobs for citrus workers with 1.2 million dependants – were far from certain.

The EU Commission’s standing committee on plant health announced various decisions this week to curb citrus black spot (CBS) on South African fruit being exported to Europe. The commission had been deciding on a suitable agreement after a temporary ban was imposed in November, towards the end of the season of the 2012-13 harvest. Chadwick said despite the decision finally bringing certainty to the industry, it left room for additional measures to be imposed in the future after five interceptions of fruits with CBS. “While onerous, the fruit testing requirements, both in the orchards and packhouses, are within our industry capacities.

“The long-term prognosis for the industry, however, remains in the balance,” he said. “The SA citrus industry had gone to great lengths and cost to demonstrate its commitment towards the European position on CBS, including testing regimes and a comprehensive risk management process.

“This is simply not economically sustainable, nor fair as South Africa has been singled out for special treatment by the EU in this regard.” Chadwick said the CBS matter had been under dispute since 1992 and despite the substantial efforts both at home and overseas, there was still a dispute regarding the magnitude of the risk, or the measures required.

CBS is a fungal disease on the rind of fruit but it does not affect the fruit itself, which is still safe for human consumption. “It is now imperative this dispute and the science that underlies it is resolved once and for all. “While in the short term the industry will adhere to and implement the necessary measures proposed by the EU, for long- term certainty the CGA calls on the new Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Minister Senzeni Zokwana, to prioritise the swift and amicable resolution of the CBS dispute with the EU.

“The future of this important agricultural sector and the many jobs it creates depends on this resolution,” Chadwick said. The EU described the stricter import requirements as “emergency measures” taken to protect European crops from CBS.

(Source: The Herald)