South Africa: ‘Erroneous’ EU Citrus Grading Puts 70,000 Jobs, U.S.$800 Million Revenue at Risk

Harare — Citrus growers in South Africa are pleading with President Cyril Ramaphosa to challenge the European Union (EU) over its strict black spot laws after the EU said it stopped some imported South African fruit with the disease, News24 reports.

Deon Joubert, Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa (CGA) special envoy for market access and EU matters, warned that over 70,000 jobs and R15 billion in foreign revenues would be at stake if imports from South Africa were stopped as a result of the EU’s limitations on the citrus black spot (CBS) fungal disease.

According to Joubert, there is a history of the EU making “erroneous” classifications, pointing to Belgium and Portugal where “CBS tests have proven to be unreliable and have resulted in false positives”.

“Declaring a WTO dispute is truly a matter of urgency”

He said that there could be long-term impact.

The CGA said that the EU’s ban on the import of fruit with CBS is “nothing more than a protectionist impulse” because South Africa is the second-largest citrus exporter in the world after Spain.

At the moment the only other market in the world with similar position on CBS is the EU.

“Time is running out for our growers, who are already feeling the extreme market pressures. The CGA calls on the South African government to work with the industry to put a stop to these CBS regulations and fight for South African jobs and revenue. Declaring a WTO dispute is truly a matter of urgency,” Joubert said.

Meanwhile, the burden of loadshedding is also putting a strain on the citrus business, with cold storage owners facing significant costs from running their generators.

This is not the first time the EU’s legislation affected citrus trade. In August 2022, the EU introduced legislation that required all produce from South Africa to undergo extreme cold treatment of between 0°C to -1°C for at least 16 days before export, to stave off false codling moth (FCM) contamination. The new rules forced the industry to ban the export of some types of citrus, like blood oranges, Turkey, Salustiana, Benny, and Midknights, which cannot withstand those cold temperatures.