Despite one of the best seasons on record in terms of mitigating the risk of Citrus Black Spot (CBS) symptoms on fruit arriving at EU borders, the EU seems determined to meet South Africa’s best efforts with unflinching bureaucratic coldness.

At a meeting in Brussels on 27 November between the EU’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG Sante), the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and a delegation of SA citrus producers, the EU begrudgingly acknowledged this year as a good season. However, the EU showed no interest in reviewing its position on CBS as a quarantine pest, demanding full compliance and refusing to consider any reasonable requests for relaxation of the excessive and unsustainable protocols governing the pest.

SA exported over 800 000 tonnes of citrus to the EU during the 2018 season (up to 40 000 containers), yet only 2 consignments were intercepted with CBS symptoms. None of these tested as viable fungi. SA has shown enormous capacity to mitigate the risk of CBS symptoms over the past 4 years, even though it does not agree with the EU that CBS poses any threat to the EU. In fact, SA is aligned with the general world scientific view that citrus fruit without leaves is not a pathway for the spread of CBS.

A recent independent study by the highly regarded Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy institute (BFAP) found that the SA Citrus Industry’s opportunity cost associated with the CBS protocols and proactive measures amount to a staggering R1.86 Billion, which is clearly not sustainable. Furthermore, the CBS protocols also require intensive chemical spraying programmes, which is in conflict with a global move towards lower residue production.

The delegation of SA citrus producers was disappointed by DG Sante who appears bent on increasing intensification of their CBS measures – a move that can only be seen as both protectionist and overly aggressive, considering that the EU’s CBS measures remain the subject of an unresolved dispute. –