Europe bans SA citrus imports over disease fears

2013-11-28 17:55

Brussels, Belgium – The EU today banned most imports of South African citrus for the remainder of this year over fears that a fungal disease found in dozens of shipments could spread to the 28-nation bloc.

The ban follows the interception of 36 citrus consignments this year from the EU’s chief summer supplier that were contaminated with the fungal black spot disease, which is not currently found in Europe.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the European Commission was set to propose the ban following pressure from citrus growers in southern Europe.

“The introduction of citrus black spot into the EU territory would pose a serious threat to the EU’s citrus-producing areas. For that reason, it is necessary to further restrict the import of citrus fruit from South Africa,” the commission said in a statement confirming the move.

The ban will apply to all South African citrus shipments from regions where the disease is present, which covers the bulk of the country's production.

Initially, the ban will apply only to the 2012-2013 harvest, which ended in October. It will, therefore, have little immediate impact because the exports to Europe dry up around October anyway.

But EU officials have warned that the restrictions could be extended into next year if an ongoing study by the bloc's food safety watchdog finds that the disease could take hold in Europe’s estimated 500 000 hectares of citrus groves.

That would threaten South Africa’s 600 000 tons of citrus fruit exports to Europe each year – mainly oranges, lemons, limes and tangerines – worth some €1 billion (R13.8 billion).

South Africa supplies about a third of the bloc’s total citrus imports and is the main source of oranges for the juice drunk by consumers in Britain, Germany and France during the European summer months.

The ban comes at a sensitive time, because the EU is seeking South Africa’s support to unlock stalled trade deals with sub-Saharan Africa.

While harmless to humans, citrus black spot causes unsightly lesions on the fruit and leaves, reducing both harvest quality and quantity. There is no known cure, but fungicides can be used to control the spread of the disease.

It is found in many citrus-growing regions in the southern hemisphere as well as in China and the US, but has never established itself in Europe.

In a draft scientific opinion published in July, the European Food Safety Authority said the chance of citrus black spot taking in hold in Europe was “moderately likely”.

But it added there was a high level of uncertainty due to a lack of knowledge over how the disease would respond to the EU climate.

The authority’s assessment is due to be completed by the end of this year.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.