- PHYTOSANITARY MARKET ACCESS BARRIERS TO THE EUROPEAN UNION
South Africa’s citrus industry is facing significant challenges due to the EU citrus trade regulations, particularly those related to False Codling Moth (FCM) and more recently, Citrus Black Spot (CBS). The Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa (CGA) has requested South African President Ramaphosa to urgently intervene, and halt unfair trade regulations enforced by the European Union (EU) on the local citrus industry. This process is currently ongoing.
The new measures regarding FCM imposed by the EU in 2022 require enhanced cold treatment for citrus exports. The regulations require all South African oranges destined for Europe to be pre-cooled to below 2 degrees Celsius for 20 days before shipment.
South Africa is the world’s second-largest citrus exporter after Spain and sold 32% of its oranges into the European market last year. The Citrus Growers Association (CGA) has raised concerns about these regulations. Current estimates are that around 20% of oranges produced for Europe will not be shipped this year because of the new regulations. This means that approximately 80,000 tons of oranges will make it to European supermarket shelves, with an estimated loss to growers of 500 million rand ($26.83 million). This is also likely to lead to the loss of thousands of jobs in the South African citrus industry.
CGA CEO Justin Chadwick has voiced concerns about the new EU rules, deeming them “unfair and discriminatory.” Chadwick argues that these regulations lack a scientific basis and impose unnecessary cold treatment measures. The CGA has presented evidence of the effectiveness of its current FCM risk management system, asserting that 99.9% of oranges entering the EU are pest-free. The implementation of these regulations is seen as unnecessarily costly and demanding, requiring a $75 million investment in new cold storage technology and capacity.
More recently, during the current citrus season, the EU has claimed several interceptions of Citrus Black Spot (CBS). CBS is a cosmetic issue that only affects a minuscule percentage of fruit exported, because of South Africa’s world-class control measures. Even though there is conclusive evidence that citrus fruit without leaves is not a pathway for the spread of CBS, the EU has continued to enforce these measures, which the South African citrus industry considered to be unreasonable. Additionally, a pattern of erroneous classifications of CBS has been established in various parts of the EU. In Belgium and Portugal, CBS tests have proven to be unreliable and have resulted in false positives. For instance, Portugal claims a CBS interception from amongst Western Cape fruit, while this province has been proven to be completely free of the pest. This type of action suggests an established agenda to block South African trade and the CGA is in the process of raising formal objections to these interceptions at an EU level.
South Africa’s response to the EU’s FCM regulations and claims of CBS contamination findings highlights the industry’s concerns over the fairness, scientific basis, and economic impact of the imposed measures. Industry leaders and government officials are seeking international forums like the WTO to address these challenges, advocating for evidence-based and balanced regulations that consider the industry’s contribution to economic growth and job creation. The citrus industry’s ongoing efforts to engage with relevant stakeholders, both domestically and internationally, underscore its commitment to finding solutions that ensure sustainable growth while preserving market access for South African citrus exports.
According to Deon Joubert, CGA Special Envoy: Market Access & EU Matters, the Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa has made a call on the South African government to put a stop to these regulations and fight for South African jobs and revenue. He added that declaring a World Trade Organisation dispute was truly a matter of urgency.