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Justin Chadwick

Leading authorities declare that CBS cannot establish in EU

At last some good news for the global citrus industry – the world’s leading authorities on Citrus Black Spot (CBS) have concluded that the disease cannot establish in the European Union. CBS has a wide global distribution, but is only known to occur in summer rainfall citrus production areas and nowhere in the world in areas with a Mediterranean climate, and that trade in citrus fruit cannot spread the disease as the fruit is not a pathway. CBS has never been reported to spread to new areas with fruit (without leaves) as the citrus fruit has never been demonstrated to be a pathway for the entry, establishment and spread of CBS.

It is the first time in the history of the citrus industry that such an august body of scientists have worked together to determine the risk of establishment and spread of a pest or disease associated with citrus. Scientists from Brazil, Argentina, USA, Uruguay, Australia and South Africa collaborated and shared their considerable expertise on the disease.

The WTO requires that before phytosanitary measures are introduced, a pest risk assessment must be concluded. If only this CBS PRA had been done when the EU introduced present CBS measures (in 1992) – such measures would not have been introduced, saving millions in treatment costs, reducing disruption in trade and eliminating other risk management system expenditure.

EFSA rightly referred their Draft PRA for international comment, knowing well that their expertise is limited, whereas EFSA (2013) attaches high levels of uncertainty to its assessments, the Panel's collective experience (768 years), with 545 years specific to CBS, gives us a high level of confidence in our assessments. EFSA were able to call in specialists at no additional cost. These specialists have identified flaws and gaps in the EFSA draft PRA - making it possible to conclude a truly complete PRA. It is now not about CBS, experts with 768 years of citrus research leave little doubt about the fact that CBS will not establish in the EU, it is about the scientific credibility/integrity of EFSA. The EFSA (2013) analytical methodology is exclusively qualitative and excludes key quantitative research and entire biological events making it fundamentally flawed.

This conclusion by the CBS specialists is good news for everyone concerned, except maybe the chemical companies selling CBS control products.

It is great news for EU citrus producers. They now know that they will never have to apply CBS control products. EU consumers are assured of an adequate supply of southern hemisphere citrus – at reasonable price. Any disruption to trade leading to supply shortages would have driven the price up.

EU citrus suppliers can also be sure that shelf space for citrus will be maintained throughout the year, and consumers will not be forced to seek alternative fresh fruit (with the danger that they may develop a liking for these other products and not switch back to northern hemisphere citrus).

Southern hemisphere citrus suppliers can stop worrying that exports to the EU may stop at any moment. The EU citrus importers can now make orders with certainty.

CBS orchard treatment control costs will decrease as CBS will need to be controlled as a quality issue rather than as a phytosanitary issue. South Africa inspectors will be freed up from the CBS inspections (orchard, Packhouse and port), while in the EU member state plant health authorities will no longer need to inspect for CBS.

Comments extracted from international panel executive summary – for full report

Justin Chadwick
Citrus Growers Association
Tel:: (+27) 31 765 2514

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