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EC to audit South African citrus inspections in the Netherlands
Given the parliamentary response to the questions posed by the Spanish MEP Clara Aguilera and the insistence of the Spanish citrus sector, the European Commission announced that it will send its officials in September to audit the phytosanitary inspection processes carried out in Dutch ports on the citrus fruit cargoes from South Africa (the first trading partner in horticulture for the Netherlands) in order to keep the Thaumatotibia Leucotreta pest under control.
Thaumatotibia Leucotreta is a moth that causes serious damage inside and outside the fruit after the appearance of fungi and bacteria. This pest has now been specifically regulated by the EU and surveillance has been required since January 2018. The European Commission currently expects South Africa to have a control program in place to keep the disease in check at source. As announced by the Citrus Growers Association, this program will include the release of sterile males to carry out a reduction of the population of these moths with biological control. Furthermore, the program includes phytosanitary treatments and controls in packaging.
The Citrus Management Committee reports that "for the Spanish citrus fruit sector, such measures are clearly insufficient," as stated also in a resolution approved by the European Parliament plenary in December 2016.
For the CGC and the Spanish citrus sector, the measure that the EC should demand from South Africa to guarantee the safety of shipments from this dangerous pest is cold treatment during transit. According to the CGC, this treatment is the only one that the EFSA has recognised as an effective measure to prevent contamination by this moth. It is, in fact, the same one that the Chinese authorities demand from Spain for its shipments to China to prevent the spread of Ceratitis capitata, and the same applies to shipments to South Korea, Mexico, the US, Australia or Japan. Moreover, this cold treatment is also demanded to tackle the Thaumatotibia Leucotreta in shipments from South Africa to the United States, Japan, South Korea, China, Thailand, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, Nigeria, Mauritius or Jordan, and this applies to all citrus fruits. In the case of Madagascar, it applies to oranges and lemons, and only for oranges when exporting to Sri Lanka and Sudan.
The Spanish citrus sector, which includes the CGC, Asaja, COAG, Cooperativas agroalimentarias, UPA and Ailimpo, have been demanding this treatment for South African citrus imports and are asking "why the treatment is acceptable for Spanish exports in the control of Ceratitis capitata and for South Africa when exporting to the countries mentioned above, but it is claimed to be undoable when requested for exports to the EU." The fact is that, according to the Spanish citrus fruit sector, "there is no doubt about the moth's capacity to adapt perfectly to the Mediterranean climate."
According to data from Europhyt (an official community register reporting all interceptions carried out on phytosanitary grounds) for June, the first month when the EU imports significant volumes of citrus fruits from South Africa, the EU imported 53,326 tonnes. Of these, 42,979 tonnes, about 80%, arrived through the Netherlands. In the same month of the previous campaign, only 54% of the citrus fruits imported by the EU arrived through the Netherlands, which represents an increase of 26 percentage points.
Despite the fact that the Netherlands is, by far, the main gateway to South Africa's citrus fruit, in that month there were no interceptions of Thaumatotibia leucotreta. However in France, with an infinitely smaller imported volume, 5 interceptions of the pest were reported. "This makes us once again suspect about the laxity of the controls carried out in the port of Rotterdam," affirm sources from the GCC. In July, there was one interception of this moth and in August three more of black spot.
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