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Argentina asks Brazil to lift veto on apple and pear imports

"The Government is asking Brazil to lift the veto on imports of apples and pears. To do this, we are going to work together with the Brazilians in an audit, which started April 8 continuing up until April 17, making the necessary adjustments to solve the problems. Even though the situation is complex, I'm optimistic," said the national director of Plant Protection of the National Service for Health and Agro-food Quality (Senasa), engineer agronomist Diego Quiroga.

The official assessed for CampoSur the situation raised by the decision of the Ministry of Agriculture of Brazil of "suspending, temporarily, the importation of fresh apples, pears and quince fruits produced in Argentina, until the integrated system of phytosanitary measures to risk mitigation of the plague Cydia pomonella is revised."

The larvae, also known as codling moth, spend winter hidden under the bark of trees, transformed in 9-10 mm pupae, part of the metamorphosis process they undergo to become adults before they transform into adult butterflies.

The adult male and females emerge in the month of September, in the region of Alto Valle de Río Negro and Neuquén; then they copulate and place their eggs in isolation and damage the fruit, which loses its commercial value. Argentina has nearly 54,850 hectares dedicated to the production of pears and apples and some 3,600 farmers dedicated to these crops. Annual production amounts to a million and a half tons. 60% of the pears and 25% of the produced apples are destined for export and the first destination is Brazil, which imports 34% of the pears and 28% of the apples Argentina produces. Our country is the world's leading exporter of pears and is part of the top ten apple exporters.

Diego Quiroga stated Brazil had contained the plague to certain areas and had eradicated it in the last year. He also added that we had it in the productive areas and that the bilateral agreement on risk mitigation decreased the probability of its presence in the fruit. In addition, he said, we established an annual audit, which has yielded positive results already.

In fact, said the head of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fishing, a visit had already been scheduled for April 8, but then Brazil issued the regulations number 5 which suspended the import of these fruits based on the detection of the pest at the border, which is true. However, the amount of shipments is virtually the same as last year "so we think suspending the imports of these fruits was an unjustified drastic decision."

There shouldn't be any major problems in passing the audit once we do some adjustments, said the head of Senasa.

For now, exporters who had had their licences approved prior to the suspension were exempt from it and can continue to sell apples and pears to Brazil. However, this situation needs to be solved so there are no inconveniences during the first half of the year, when the most exports take place.

Luis Genga, a producer in the area of Alto Valle, believes the real problem isn't the plague, as it has "always existed, and continues to exist, in spite of the heavy investment in pesticides. The problem is the overproduction of Williams pears, the market's current demand, and the lack of reference price that made us lose the surplus."

"We've lost markets because the Russians and Europe aren't buying... and now Brazil isn't interested in buying from us", said the producer. He ended his diagnosis by stating that the market "makes the rules and says you have to buy less fruits at a lower price; we have nowhere to place this overproduction. We can't even trust the internal market, as it is depressed and very careless."

According to Genga, "nobody is going to be responsible for our losses, it is almost certain that many producers that were resisting will give up. For me, the codling moth is just a story. We will have to wait for the audit next week and hope that the Governments from Brazil and Argentina reach a happy agreement."

The truth is that there may be other background reasons to stop imports of pears and apples besides the detection of the pest, such as the lobby carried out by the Brazilian producers to close their market, as was the case with citrus imports. According to the food safety specialist, Darío Palma, although they have a real health issue, its very weird that the suspension of imports of Argentine pears and apples in Brazil took place "at the very moment in which the Ministry of Agriculture of the Government of the fraternal country passed into the hands of the representatives of the agricultural sector."

Meanwhile, Argentine technicians are getting ready to receive a delegation from Brazil and solve the issue. This is the official message being sent from Brazil and there is a possible meeting between the Ministers of Agriculture of both countries after the audit to re-establish trade.

Source: Camposur

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