The European Union (EU) is imposing stricter rules on South African citrus exports, threatening 70,000 jobs and R15 billion in revenue.
Deon Joubert from the Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa (CGA) told eNCA that the rules imposed by the EU have nothing to do with the quality of South African citrus and are simply trade restrictions.
Joubert said this has been an ongoing issue for a decade with no solution in sight, as the EU is committed to imposing new regulations on South African citrus producers.
The EU wants local producers to enhance their cold chain, as Portugal has reported cases of citrus black spot (CBS) on citrus from South Africa.
CBS is a fungal disease that leaves black marks on part of the fruit, making it undesirable for human consumption and reducing yield from infected plants.
Joubert rubbished the EU’s claims, saying South Africa has been exporting fruit to Europe for over a century without a single case of CBS.
Moreover, the origin of the fruit, the Western Cape, has been proven to be completely free of the disease.
Regardless, the EU is imposing stricter rules on South African citrus producers, pushing them to use ‘super fridges’ to ensure the fruit is free of CBS.
The EU consumes 48% of South Africa’s citrus production, and these stricter rules threaten the country’s exports to the bloc.
Stricter rules, especially the use of ‘super fridges’, will make South African citrus exports more expensive and thus less competitive.
Joubert said exporting to the EU already costs South African producers R3.7 billion more than it should. These new regulations will increase costs by a further R2 billion.
“The EU’s got these stupid rules at the moment which make no sense. They are just making it more difficult for South African producers to export their fruit,” Joubert said.
“Virtually half the industry, about 70,000 jobs, and R15 billion of income are under threat.”
South Africa’s Trade Minister, Ebrahim Patel, has been engaging with the EU about its new regulations and their potential economic impact.
Joubert said the government is taking it very seriously and has threatened to take the EU to the World Trade Organisation for violating trade agreements.
According to Joubert and the South African government, it is clear that these regulations have nothing to do with food safety and quality but are instead trade restrictions imposed on South Africa for geopolitical reasons.
South African citrus does not compete with European variants as the production is counter-seasonal, so preventing South African imports will not help European producers.
“The EU is on their own path to nowhere. It is utter nonsense on the back of one regulation after another,” Joubert said.
“The CGA has requested President Ramaphosa to intervene urgently. It is critical that the South African government draws a line in the sand and calls for an official World Trade Organisation dispute with the EU on their CBS regulations.”