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Citrus greening will reach Spain via southern Portugal

The 2nd Citriculture Forum of Huelva brought together technicians and producers from the Andalusian sector, mainly from Huelva, in Gibraleón, one of the citrus producing municipalities of Huelva.

The Forum, organised by Ecovalia, was attended, among others, by the general director for Health of the Agricultural Production of the Ministry of Agriculture, Valentín Almansa. He said that the two greatest threats for citrus fruits (from the point of view of plant health) are citrus greening and the Xylella. Both diseases are currently under the strict control of the public administration, but this does not mean that "it is possible to lower our guard."

Almansa explained that within the Peninsula there are two controlled outbreaks of citrus greening, one in Galicia and another in Portugal. None of them is close to fruit production areas, but have appeared with the transfer of seedlings from infected areas which are used as ornamental or decorative plants, i.e. they are not subjected to rigorous or continuous treatments.

The vector of this pest, the psila, has been gaining ground, so the Galician outbreak has already joined the Portuguese one and now advances towards the south. It is already in the Lisbon area and is expected to continue along the coastal strip, so sooner or later it should reach southern Portugal.

The psila, as the insect that causes the pest is commonly known, has an established population in areas of the Canaries and the Azores, islands from which it has jumped to the Peninsula with the transfer of seedlings. This has led to the transfer of plant material from these areas being banned.

Citrus greening is a pest that spreads very quickly, although the psylla can be easily kept under control with the tools available in the market. "What is most difficult is setting barriers for its further spread."

The Xylella is another of the pests that has the security systems of both the Ministry and the Council of Agriculture of Andalusia on alert. Valentin Almansa explained that it is a disease that affects a wide range of crops, including citrus. The bacteria that cause this disease are very diverse, so they don't affect all varieties of a given crop. Outbreaks have been detected in the Balearics and Alicante, but it is under control and has also appeared due to the movement of plant material.

So far, the spread of black spot, a disease caused by a fungus, and which is common in South Africa and Argentina, has been prevented. For now, the Spanish authorities have managed to ensure that the goods that arrive in European countries do not pass through our territory, thus avoiding a risk.

Spain is free of this pest, which does not exist in any country in Europe where there is production, but the alert remains because of the serious damage that it could cause in the citrus market.

The general director of Mapama has defended organic production because of the added value it brings and has encouraged producers to enforce the controls established by law to prevent the spread of diseases and pests, because "in the end, we will all benefit from that." Valentin stressed that regulatory obstacles "are not an administrative whim" and warned that if producers "react immediately to any incident, we will avoid the spread of diseases and prevent further damages."


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