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Agronomists ask EU for phytosanitary controls on imported citrus
The Foundation of the Agronomists Association of Levante (FPIA-COIAL) held a conference on the new dangers faced by Valencian citrus. Various experts from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, the Councils of Presidency and Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Water, the National Agricultural Research Institute (INIA), the Centre for Biotechnology and Plant Production of the IVIA and representatives of Spain in the EU in the field of plant health outlined the main threats faced by one of the subsectors with more weight in the Valencian economy. The conference included topics such as new pests and how to tackle them. "Preventive measures, such as phytosanitary border control, are our main tool to prevent the entry of these threats to our citrus," said the head of COIAL, Baldomero Segura.
María Rosa Bernardo, technician at the Branch for General Health Agreements and Border Control of the Ministry of Agriculture, talked about the Spanish position in the EU with regard to border control of imports. "We want to strengthen controls on plants imported by the EU and the Spanish representatives in the working group preparing the new European Plant Health regulation strive to achieve that goal," explained Bernardo.
"We need a reverse import strategy, like the U.S., China or Russia, which work with whitelists; i.e., only those products/countries previously authorised would be allowed." We currently work with blacklists, which prevent the entry of the products listed.
Whitelists require more work in the risk assessment, but Spain considers this a necessary strategy, not only to ensure the phytosanitary protection of our productions, but also the safety of our exports.
The EU is able to carry out reduced frequency checks, but Spain is not doing that. This entails the physical inspection of 100% of all regulated product shipments, including citrus. Border controls have been strengthened with the provision of practical training courses for inspectors, particularly in Valencia, "where citrus inspectors are among the best, not just at EU level, but even at international level," assured Bernardo.
400 interceptions in five years across the EU
EU inspectors have prevented the entry of 400 batches of citrus (324 of oranges, 43 of lemons and 34 of clementines) between 2010 and 2014, 72 of which (18% of the total) were intercepted in Spain. The most common pests detected are CBS (Phyllosticta citricarpa) and Thaumatotibia leoucotreta.
In his speech, Dr agronomist Antonio Vicent, of the Centre for Plant Protection and Mycology of the IVIA, said that CBS (or citrus black spot) is "the main fungal disease affecting citrus worldwide" for the following reasons: "It's quickly expanding, its epidemic development is slow, but impossible to eradicate, it can be transmitted through infected planting material and fruit, it is present in places with very similar climatic conditions as those of our citrus production areas and is quite resistant to the fungicides permitted by the EU."
Pests in Galicia, Portugal and Italy
There are currently few pests affecting crops in the European Union. The African psyllid (Tryozaeritreae), which causes citrus greening, is endemic in large parts of East Africa, is present in Madeira since 1994, in the Canary Islands since 2002 and was detected last summer in Galicia (Rias Baixas) and Portugal (around Porto). This pest is under control, and for now the African fly present in the Peninsula does not carry the strain that causes citrus greening. Also, a small area of Italy has been hit by the Xylella fastidiosa, although so far only olive trees have been affected.
There are two countries whose citrus exports to the European Union are subject to specific requirements: South Africa and Brazil, as CBS is quite common in them.
With the arrival of the Tryozaeritreae to Galicia, the Valencian Government launched a plan to intensify checks and inspections in plantations and nurseries, going from 123 to 938 checkpoints in the field and setting up 25 traps in ornamental nurseries and another 15 in citrus nurseries. In recent months, 80 surveys have been conducted on nurseries and orchards, in addition to the launch of an information campaign to keep growers vigilant.
Through events such as this conference, the Foundation of the Association aims for agronomists, who are the most reputable plant health experts in Spain, to exchange knowledge and experiences in order to keep up to date and guarantee a quick and effective response to any dangerous situation for Valencian agriculture. The head of the Association, Baldomero Segura, stressed "the need for coordination between the different administrations to address these problems in a comprehensive manner."
Publication date: 6/4/2015
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