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EU: Spain to request new control measures for citrus imports

Spain will soon ask the European Union to take measures to prevent the entry into the EU of citrus affected by the fungus "Guignardia citricarpa", more commonly known as "black spot".

The Spanish delegation is requesting the issue to be one of the topics addressed to the Council of Ministers of Agriculture, which will be attended by Isabel García Tejerina as minister for the first time.

"The likely spread of the disease to our plantations would have serious consequences and would negatively affect their profitability," warns the document. 

The text highlights that during the 2013 import season "there were repeated interceptions of imported South African citrus that was infected with the pest."

To be precise, there was a total of 35 interceptions, despite warnings from the European Commission (EC) and the guarantees offered by South African authorities, "which caused protests from several Member States (including Spain)." 

In November, with the campaign almost complete, the situation led "the Standing Committee on Plant Health to adopt safeguard measures limiting imports," continues the text. 

It also stresses that, in February, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a statement stressing that the risk of the disease entering the EU through imports "is real" and that the disease "could spread to European production areas."

The EFSA acknowledged that the only possible prevention measure nowadays are border controls, and that latent forms of the disease (presence in non-symptomatic fruit) entails a risk that warrants a strengthening of the control measures. 

"We believe that protecting our produce from the entry of pathogens must be one of our priorities. We must be clear in this area, as are most of our trading partners, and thus take measures to prevent the entry of pests and diseases in accordance with the scientific advice given," he adds.

Spain therefore considers it necessary to "strengthen both the departure and arrival control systems, with special attention paid to the presence of latent forms of the disease" and "to establish a single guarantee standard, regardless of the fruit's destination."

It is also considered necessary to agree on measures to be taken "in the event that the guarantees given by the exporting country are not met, including a precautionary ban on imports if necessary." 

"The Standing Committee on Plant Health is currently debating a proposal that we believe does not include the necessary measures to prevent the entry of the disease," says the text.

It is also claimed that the citrus import season has already started and that no new control mechanisms are yet in place, "despite the old ones having proven to be ineffective."

Spain therefore makes a call to the EC "to present a proposal that takes into account all the necessary guarantees to minimise the risk of the disease entering and to establish the necessary precautionary measures in the event that these are not met by the exporting country."

EC sources reported that Brussels expects an agreement between the member states "before the end of the month."

These sources further pointed out that "the strengthening of the control measures remains a key priority for the EC".

Source: Efe

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