The South African citrus industry has suspended citrus fruit exports to the European Union with immediate effect‚ with the exception of soft citrus and exports from the Western Cape and Northern Cape.
However, Sundays River Citrus Company transformation and development director Ken Nieuwenhuizen said it was a deliberate risk management step to ensure future exports to European markets.
“Our industry has proactively decided to discontinue exports to ensure that we manage that whole issue as well as we can to ensure access to Europe again next year,” he said.
Nieuwenhuizen said the export season was at its tail end and the remaining fruit would be sent to alternative markets.
He said citrus black spot was a matter that needed to be carefully managed by the industry to keep access lines to the European markets open.
This follows a special meeting last Friday of the Citrus Growers’ Association’s citrus black spot (CBS) disaster management committee.
“The industry has requested the Department of Agriculture to give effect to this decision by suspending inspection and the issuing of phyto certificates for all EU citrus exports‚ except on soft citrus and all citrus exports from the CBS-free areas.
“The SA citrus industry in partnership with the SA government have worked tirelessly over the past six years to maintain South Africa’s comprehensive CBS risk management programme.
“This decision was taken as a measure to ensure continued access in future to the EU market.”
Unifrutti South Africa Eastern Cape area manager Deon Joubert said they would not be affected by the suspension, as their export season was already concluded.
He echoed Nieuwenhuizen’s statement, saying that it was just a measure to ensure the lines of export to European markets remained accessible.
In May‚ Citrus Growers’ Association of SA chief executive Justin Chadwick wrote in Business Day that citrus black spot – a fungal disease‚ which is transmitted through the movement of infected plant material – had been a continuing dispute between South Africa and the EU since 1992.
He said this was “notwithstanding the fact that science has refuted the EU’s claims that citrus fruit is a pathway for transmission. Besides‚ the EU climate is unsuitable for establishment of the disease”.