Brexit could benefit local citrus industry

2016-07-28 06:00
=Citrus producers in the Eastern Cape say Britain’s decision to leave the European Union could give a strong boost to the local citrus industry.  Photo: Mariska Spoormaker

=Citrus producers in the Eastern Cape say Britain’s decision to leave the European Union could give a strong boost to the local citrus industry. Photo: Mariska Spoormaker

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Citrus producers in the Eastern Cape say Britain’s decision to leave the European Union could give a strong boost to the local citrus industry.

But the “divorce” process could still take up to two years and there would be little change in the short term, according to Justin Chadwick, head of SA Citrus Processing Association.

Chadwick said the import regulations for citrus shipped to Britain were at present the same as for other countries in the EU, but Britain could ease these in future.

“An independent Britain would later introduce its own agricultural regulations, or at least scrap those EU regulations which did not necessarily have to apply in Britain,” Chadwick said.

Such a move would make citrus export easier and as a result give a strong boost for the South African citrus industry.

“Because citrus will not be a sensitive product with regard to the protection of British producers, it can be expected that Britain will have lower tax levels for South African citrus.”

At present 10% of South African citrus exports go to Britain and 29% to the EU.

Hannes de Waal, managing director of the Sundays River Citrus Coop, said South Africa could expect more favourable conditions, especially because Britain was not a citrus-producing country.

“This should mean that we get a longer season to sell there and that the unfair black spot regulations will fall by the wayside.”

They are cautiously optimistic.

“We do not want to underestimate any remaining ‘pro-EU’ sentiment in Britain. International trade agreements can be complex.”

Spes du Preez, chairman of the Gamtoos Farmers Association, says it is perhaps too early to draw conclusions.

“Few people can actually predict the international impact that Brexit will have on the economy as well as on imports and exports.

“We must just remember that Britain’s citrus market is not necessarily a growing one. It will therefore not be able to make up for market losses in European countries,” Du Preez said.

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