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SA’s yearly 800,000 tons citrus exports to Europe are under threat because the EU fears a tiny moth

Business Insider SA
Oranges on a conveyer belt at a Fruit Packing Plant in South Africa. (Image: Getty)
Oranges on a conveyer belt at a Fruit Packing Plant in South Africa. (Image: Getty)
  • An EU committee is holding discussions on a crop feasting moth this week.
  • It will likely vote on new regulations that would require South Africa to implement extreme cold treatment conditions for citrus fruit.
  • But South Africa has had low incidents of the moth reported, with 48 incidents reported and six contested over three years.
  • Other countries, in contrast, have had over 240, with no new requirements proposed for them.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africa’s citrus farmers, who send as much as 800,000 tons of fruit per year to the European region, may be forced to virtually ban the export of some types of citrus if a vote on new cold treatment regulations passes this week.

The European Union’s (EU) standing committee on plant, animal, food and feed will this week hold discussions on false coddling moth (FCM), which feeds on many species of crops, including citrus.

The discussions are likely to end in a vote that could see the EU impose new regulations forcing African countries to implement extreme cold treatment rules. If it passes, citrus from South Africa will have to endure cold treatment between 0°C to -1°C for at least 16 days before export.

Exports of various types of fruit will be more affected, including blood oranges, Turkey, Salustiana, Benny, and Midknights, all of which South Africa will have to stop sending to Europe. It will also be forced to halt exports of organic and chem-free oranges.

“These environmentally friendly and sustainable orange types have never recorded a FCM interception,” Deon Joubert, Special Citrus Growers’ Association’s envoy for market access & EU matters said.

“When it comes to South African conventional oranges, only a portion of the crop will be able to withstand the new prescribed cold treatment temperatures,” Joubert said.

The new regulations present a threat to South Africa’s citrus industry, which already follows rigorous risk management protocols that have effectively protected against pests and diseases over the years, he added.

Over the past three years, South Africa’s citrus industry has not exceeded 19 FCM incidents and last year recorded only 15. It contested six cases where evidence proved that the larvae reported was dead, posing no risk to the fruit.

In contrast, more than 240 incidents have been reported over the same period for fruit coming from Europe’s other third-importing countries – the EU has not proposed the regulations for these countries.

Not only will the regulations put the industry’s sustainability and 140,000 jobs at risk, but they would also have a devastating impact on orange exports to the region, he said.

It would also result in supply chain issues and higher prices for the fruit for consumers in Europe.

The new regulations also require special container equipment in short supply and would not be able to accommodate the vast volumes of fruit destined for the European market. 

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