JOHANNESBURG – Strengthened measures will be put in place to comply with the EU’s requirements for citrus imports, the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) said on Friday.
“Further strengthening of the RMS (Risk Management System) continued in anticipation of the 2014 export season and we have, together with industry role players continued to engage the EU authorities,’’ the department said.
The department made the statement as the European Commission Standing Committee on Plant Health was meeting to discuss whether to extend a ban on South African citrus imports.
The ban will block 600,000 tonnes of citrus fruit for the May-October season, potentially inflating the price of orange juice in Europe this summer and forcing South Africa to sell at lower prices elsewhere.
The EU imposed the ban last year following the interception of 35 citrus shipments from South Africa that were contaminated with the Citrus Black Spot (CBS).
The growers in southern Europe fear could take hold in their citrus groves.
The European Commission has proposed dropping the ban on South African citrus imports, but said it could be re-imposed if shipments contain the CBS.
The results in which the superficial blemishes on the fruit thereby affecting the cosmetic appearance of the fruit.
South Africa has been disputing the scientific basis of the EU’s phytosanitary measures in respect of CBS for a number of years.
In fact, these measures were strengthened over the years, which culminated in an EU decision in 2012 to limit interceptions of CBS-infected fruit to five different shipments.
This interception limit applied to the 2013 export season.
“Considering the importance of the EU market for South African citrus, and SA’s commitment to comply with the measures in question, the department and key industry partners have strengthened the CBS-risk management system (RMS), which aims to limit the occurrence of CBS in consignments,” the DAFF said.
Throughout the 2013 citrus export season, the department continuously engaged the relevant EU authorities by sharing information on the implementation of the RMS and submitting information on remedial actions taken where a CBS interception had occurred.
In spite of implementing additional risk management measures, SA accumulated 35 interceptions of CBS on citrus fruit exported to the EU in the 2013 export season.
Having reached and exceeded the five interception limit, SA received communication from the EU in December 2013 which limited further imports to only those from areas officially recognised as CBS-free in SA.
“However, we can only fully understand the extent and impact of any new measure when official communication is received from the relevant EU authorities,’’ said Makenosi Maroo, Chief Director of DAFF’s Stakeholder Relations and Communications Office.The EU, which buys 1.4 billion dollars of South African citrus exports every year, banned mainly oranges, lemons, and tangerines from South Africa late last year because of the CBS found in shipments. (Xinhua/NAN)