New EU regulations on citrus imports could have dire consequences for local producers

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The Department of Agriculture says it is working around the clock to reach an agreement with the European Union about the new regulations it has imposed on citrus imports. The new regulations, if upheld, will have dire consequences for local citrus exporters.

Citrus fruit worth more than R600 million has already been exported and is stuck in Europe. The fruit is at risk of being destroyed if an agreement is not reached by the end of this week.

Exported fruit is now required to undergo a mandatory 25-day cold process treatment before being exported. The new regulations were published and implemented while large consignments of fruit were already on route to the EU under the old rules.

The citrus industry sees the new regulations as politically motivated, with no science to back the decision.

“This is really a just poor judgmental rule to try and protect it against the Spanish interest which I fail to understand because we count the seasons. We are the best news they have, we are out of season but we still keep the consumers eating oranges and lemons without the Spanish seasons. So we are keeping people loyal to the product. So we are the best news. This political motivation because of elections later in the year is just diabolical and is done with the intent to harm the South African market and is not warranted or supported by any data at all,” says Citrus Growers Association’s Deon Joubert.

The new regulations were published on the 21st of June and executed three days later. The South African government says this is unfair treatment of a trading partner as the rules stipulate a six-month notice period for regulation changes.

“There hasn’t been enough consultation with SA which is the trading partner and secondly, the time frame they are asking our farmers to consult is actually unreasonable because firstly it comes during the harvest season. You know the citrus season comes in April during when it’s your lemon. And then May, June is your orange and naartjies will come on stream. So you can’t change rules in the middle of a season,”  says Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza.

The citrus industry has already lost R200 million due to the new regulations.

VIDEO: New regulations on citrus imports discussed