South African citrus wants World Trade Organisation to make a decision on EU the measure of black spots in citrus

In the age of is against food waste and chemical spraying, Europe’s difficult stance regarding the disease that causes cosmetic damage, called citrus black spot (CBS) is a defensible political stance that is something that the South African citrus industry will not to.

And even more in the event that it financially cripples the industry of citrus costing R3.7 billion (178 million euros) in chemical substances to be sprayed as well as other methods in CBS as well as false codling moth-affected orange orchards that are located in the northern and eastern regions of the nation each year.

“The South African citrus industry is facing the ground,” says Deon Joubert who is the head of the Citrus Growers’ Organization of Southern Africa’s ambassador for the European Union.

“Citrus black spot hasn’t been reported into Europe (nor in even the Western Cape, for that issue) within the past 100 year period in South African citrus exports to Europe. This is confirmed through the Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute in the Netherlands and the discovery of CBS spores within the leaves of plant material for citrus on various locations in Southern Europe in 2017,” He states.

“The Black Spot fungus in citrus is evident in the material of citrus which is a strong supporter of South Africa and the rest of the world’s view that the climate of Southern Europe, as in the Western Cape and California, doesn’t support the appearance of signs.”

CBS The spores found are present on SA citrus are not in any chances of surviving into Europe

“We’re trying to write ourselves off. But because of what? At best, it’s a cosmetic problem that doesn’t impact the appeal of the fruit or the exceptional eating quality as evidenced by the 60% increase in the number of imports made by European consumers over the past eight years. We can’t remain in the way that the CBS matter has been addressed for the last 10 years. We’ve bending over backwards in order to meet the ever strict regulations presented for us by European Union.”

The researcher adds that treating CBS cosmetically is simple, but spraying repeatedly in order to produce fruits that are consistent in the terms of EU rules is a suicide attempt and unproductive, because the fruit isn’t an effective treatment for the illness.

In addition to the extensive spray programs carried out by South African orchards against citrus black spot, traditional citrus is also subjected to disinfectant baths. They generally waxed in the process, that ensure CBS fungal spores can’t remain in.

“The EU is in effect encouraging that we spray dead spores that have been acknowledged by them in 2015 and 2016 could not transmit black spots from citrus. This is like being frightened from a dog’s bite. It’s a false the reasoning behind keeping us in ransom.”

The fungus is if left untreated may cause ugly marks on the rind of citrus is now the alpha and omega of spraying programmes on the farms that produce summer rainfall across South Africa – and next year, the main chemical ingredient of the program of spraying (Mancozeb) will no longer be acceptable.

“Complying to EU guidelines concerning CBS can only get more challenging when we’re unable to make use of Dithane (brand name of the active ingredient Mancozeb] any longer. There’s no economically viable alternative for Dithane.”

He says it is the United States has accepted that CBS can be found in Florida orchards. But it hasn’t expanded into California which is proving South Africa’s assertion that this fruit does not constitute the best way to transmit.

Additionally, the United States also imports citrus from different CBS regions, such as Argentina and Uruguay They believe that these countries do not pose a threat to the national citrus industry.

False positives are caused through poor testing procedures

The latest interceptions of what is believed to be black spots on citrus from the winter rainfall region, by the Portuguese inspectors has proved to be an end of the road for the sector.

The CGA considers that the laboratory methods used to verify CBS utilized by a few European inspection bodies are not accurate. In live CBS fungal spores found on fruits are what labs should in actual fact, look for in spore cultures over a long period of time – an aspect on that the EU was previously in agreement however, this is not anymore the norm in reality.

“We are aware that the EU has stopped following the concept of searching for active spores. They’re merely verifying that dead spores exist or, in some cases it’s not even accurate,” he says.

They are reminded, Deon comments on the claims made by last year of two instances of CBS discovered in Belgium in the field of Floridian citrus in a zone which was not reported to have CBS. This was successfully contested by America and was later withdrawn by EU officials.

“So should the EU finds false positives for CBS and, after an appeal, decides to withdraw it this casts doubt about the reliability of their CBS test process. The EU does not always accurately isolating CBS using their laboratory methods. Maybe they’re detecting Alternaria and hail damage we don’t know. We’ve asked for the specific procedure they used to identify CBS in fruit that comes in within the Western Cape but the EU has so far not released the details of its lab and protocols.”

According to him, there are currently a variety of instances of false positives being discovered by EU inspectors.

What’s the red line in CBS?

“The EU needs to be constant in tackling CBS which doesn’t just have an impact on South Africa,” he says, and then he provides an example of the citrus industry other parts of the Southern Hemisphere where 112 interceptions took place before the EU stopped selling their products to the citrus industry in 2020.

“We’re in the midst of 25″non-compliances” – among which a large number is in dispute. There are threats to shut down the market. However, for an additional third-party country, it was close after the rate of 112 violations.”

South Africa has asked the EU to clarify the non-compliance threshold that the country may be banned from exports due to the violation of CBS however, they have not received any reply on this issue either.

“We cannot continue to penalize CBS. It is the EU is the only group that does this. We think we can make an even stronger argument on CBS than we do on FCM in the World Trade Organisation,” He declares. “The EU can’t be referee as well as play a role in the game We believe that is the reason why this case is important enough to be considered from the World Trade Organisation.”

Argentina, Uruguay and the United States are fully aligned to South Africa’s position on science regarding the black spot in citrus, he said.

“They have the exact same feelings like us. If we launch an World Trade Organisation dispute for CBS and who knows that other nations could become respondents. There is no way to make a disease criminalized to serve political reasons.”

The CGA is aware that the CGA’s dilemma is in Europe and their request for a new, CBS-related WTO issue was discussed in Cabinet level last week.

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Deon Joubert

Citrus Growers’ Association

Tel: +27 31 765 2514


Source: The Plantations International Agroforestry Group of Companies