RSA calls for rejection of Citrus Amendment

A the draft resolution will be voted on tomorrow (8 February) by representatives of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCOPAFF) of EU Member States, which includes a mandatory requirement that all oranges from third countries in Africa and Israel must be treated for a minimum of 16 days at a temperature between 0 and -1ohVS

In a letter to SCOPAFF representatives from EU member states, South Africa said it respectfully urges members to oppose the proposed amendment to Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/2072.

“We call on you to ask the European Commission to put in place more proportionate, effective and, above all, easily available alternatives, after further consultations with South Africa.”

Deon Joubert, the South African citrus industry’s special envoy to the EU, pointed out that the new requirement would have a deleterious impact on more than 100 years of citrus trade between Europe and Africa. from South.

He said South Africa was the biggest source of citrus fruits for the EU during the European summer, with a value of over €1 billion.

“This will prevent the importation of all organic and non-chemically treated oranges, as well as several important cultivars that do not tolerate this treatment,” he explained. “This will lead to significant gaps in the availability of excellent quality oranges to EU consumers via the European summer, which has relied on this supply for the past decades.

“The products most in demand by European consumers – organic and chemically untreated fruit – will be completely unavailable,” Joubert stressed. “This comes at a time of particularly strong demand from the EU, as consumers appreciate the benefits of vitamin C for their immune system and overall health.”

South Africa said the new requirement was not justified on phytosanitary grounds. Joubert said cold treatment was already part of South Africa’s risk management system for false codling moth (FCM).

“But different components of cold treatment (time-temperature) are applied based on the objective risk assessment in the systems approach that results from diligent and comprehensive weekly monitoring for any presence of FCM during the pre- harvest in citrus orchards in South Africa,” he said.

“The adaptability of the system based on an objective risk assessment (prevalence of the pest in the area, type of cultivar, other risk mitigation measures) is its strength and is essential to any systems approach because it allows interventions that are environmentally friendly, non-chemical, and therefore sustainable and biologically acceptable,” Joubert continued. “Introducing a one-size-fits-all cold treatment requirement invalidates the pre-harvest benefits gained over a chemical intervention. minimum and the whole idea of ​​a systemic approach.

Joubert said South Africa’s FCM risk to the EU had not increased since it was declared an EU quarantine pest three years ago. “The record for the past three years has been 14, 19 and 15 interceptions (NONC). It is not an upward trend. »

There are, furthermore, major question marks as to whether a number of EU intercepts were live, as is required to be a NONC.

Photographic proof of black [dead] combined with evidence of the correct application of scientifically required cold treatments agreed in 2021 with its proven effectiveness, led experienced and globally recognized FCM experts to conclude that these FCM larvae were dead upon inspection, has he pointed out.

“South Africa concluded that six of the 15 interceptions were likely related to dead hoppers and should not have been classified as official NONCs,” he said. Member States.”

Joubert said the risk was not particularly high with oranges. “Based on the EU’s own data, oranges accounted for 15, 12 and eight of the above NONCs over the past three years [2019 to 2021]. This means it is clearly in decline.

By comparison, while FCM interceptions were a priority for the EU, NONCs of cut flowers and other horticultural products imported from other third countries ranged between 51 and 129 individually over the same three-year period.

South Africa said that, as noted earlier, cold treatment was already part of the South African FCM risk management system.

“This, among others, has already been reinforced in November 2021, and the changes (including the elimination of the two less stringent cold regime options) have been communicated to the EU to demonstrate South Africa’s commitment. South to continue and improve risk mitigation.”

Other time-temperature protocols available, listed in the EU FCM risk management system and in the IPPC ISMP recognized standards project, have been found to have similar effectiveness to the protocol that the EU intends to impose.

Evidence for these efficacies was co-published in CRI Scientific Literature in 2016, peer-reviewed, and currently recognized as the world’s authoritative position on cold treatment for FCM – and the basis for the project. of ISMP from IPPC.

“At least the least commercially restrictive temperature cold protocols should be available, if mandatory cold therapy is needed — not the currently discussed regimen,” Joubert said.

South Africa’s position is that the proposed measure is therefore contrary to the WTO SPS principle that the least trade restrictive measure available should be applied.

“There is simply no good reason to effectively ban the import of certain cultivars of oranges, organic oranges and non-chemically treated oranges from South Africa when this measure is not not scientifically justified and that other equally effective measures are available and already applied.

The country has successfully traded citrus with the EU for over 100 years. South African growers are acutely aware of the importance of protecting production against pests and fully recognize the right of European growers to benefit from such protection.

“South African growers spend around R3.4 billion a year to ensure the highest levels of compliance with EU phytosanitary regulations on FCM and CBS,” Joubert added. “This major investment is what enables the operation of probably the most sophisticated risk management systems in the world. on plant health [in the words of EU officials].

“Therefore, it makes no sense to undermine everything with a mandatory, unnecessary and disproportionate cold treatment requirement, which negates the progressive, environmentally friendly and sustainable risk management system on FCM that South Africa Sud manages and maintains.”

About Mitchel McMillan

Check Also

ANALYSIS | New book unpacks complexities of whiteness in South Africa

Roger Southall’s latest book “White People and Democracy in South Africa”, helps bring the sometimes …