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business as usual in South Africa

EU citrus growers not convinced by CBS research

After the findings of leading experts that Citrus Black Spot (CBS) cannot establish in the EU, Justin Chadwick, CEO of the South African Citrus Grower's Association stated, "This is what we always believed but it is nice to have it confirmed by experts."

After a draft PRA on CBS was published back in July by the EFSA, experts from around the world went over the report, page by page, word by word and found it "terribly flawed". Each of the experts prepared submissions which were combined into one document which is now being looked at by the EFSA, who will give their final PRA at the end of December.

Commenting after a meeting of EU’s Citrus Group in Brussels yesterday, president of AVA-ASAJA, Cristóbal Aguado said, “What took place today at the meeting was indecent and a mockery. These gentlemen have lost the little credibility they had left, because if after 34 cases of black spot having been intercepted, they are still avoiding the issue, they've certainly shown that they don't care about the future of citriculture.”

Aguado is convinced that the hesitating and elusive attitude shown by the Commission “responds exclusively to political reasons, as their own interests are being prioritised over the real risk entailed by the contaminated imports; a risk which has been scientifically proven by entities such as the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA).”

Antonino Catara, chairman of the Sicily science and technology park, says that he has "examined the papers, and I wouldn't be so sure of the fact that the fungus wouldn't spread in Europe. The conclusion of the panel is much too simplistic, especially if we consider preventative measures. Experienced researchers from countries that would have a lot to loose have dismissed the risks and transformed the CBS question in a quality matter. According to them, we wouldn't even have to carry out checks!"

"They have dismissed the opinion of a panel of European researchers who, in 1992, felt the exact opposite. What is the use of EPPO sheets, then? I think that the European producer countries will know how to respond to this offence."

As far as the South African growers are concerned it's just business as usual, they are still growing according to the CBS regulations. Chadwick commented that October had been an especially friendly month where the CBS controls were concerned, with little rain which meant the spraying, which is critical at this time of the year, could take place.

Chadwick also said that citrus producers were still looking for alternative markets to limit the reliance on the European ones. He estimated that the cost to meet the CBS regulations cost the South African citrus industry around one billion Rand last season.



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