‘EU is putting draconian measures on South African citrus’

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The Citrus Growers Association of South Africa has requested Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel to urgently convene a panel of the World Trade Organisation regarding restrictive and expensive measures imposed by the European Union to export oranges.

This is over an insect found in Sub-Saharan Africa that the EU deems potentially dangerous for its citrus growers. South African producers say they’ve implemented some of the best measures in the world to prevent this from happening.

The European Union insists that South Africa must cool and store its oranges for 20 days before exports. This requirement is because of the False Codling Moth.

Stringent measures are employed by South African growers to prevent any of the insect larvae to spread. These measures are deemed highly effective by international standards.

However, the additional measure of cooling and storing, which is not ideal for oranges, will add over R1 billion into costs to be able to export to the EU.

The Citrus Growers Association of South Africa says these measures are unfair and are not in line with the guidelines of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“The principal rule for the WTO is that the measure can’t be more serious or the impact much higher than the pest, so it has to be proportionate. Now South Africa has always maintained that the FCM has never been established in the EU, South Africa is by far if you can call it the least of the defaulters so we’re not really a big problem. What we find extremely wrong at the moment is that the EU is putting draconian measures on South African citrus and then no measures whatsoever on these other countries that also have let’s say 100-fold more interceptions than us,” says Deon Joubert, Citrus Growers Association: Market Access Specialist on EU & USA.

South Africa produces some of the best oranges globally and exports close to 160 million cartons annually. The sector employs over 140 000 people within the top-growing provinces of Limpopo and the Eastern and Western Cape. But it says the country has great potential to further expand its reach beyond that of the EU.

“India and China produce a lot, they eat a massive amount, our market penetration although it’s there. Our development of those markets have not gone so if we develop those two markets, we can plant four times as much as we have at the moment and still make it. So, I think that the view or the longer-term goal is to establish ourselves in those kinds of markets, show that South African products are actually underpinning and supporting the local production by giving 12-month supply and consumers find South African fruit enjoyable, tasty, high acid and high sugar,” Joubert added.

A first round of discussions with the EU yielded no results. The association has written to the national government to request a full panel to hear the matter as the current impasse can impede trade. The country exported over 67 million cartons of oranges to the EU last year.

VIDEO: Citrus growers call for urgent govt intervention on strict export measures