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Extension of ban could effect global citrus market

EU bans South African citrus for 2012/13 season

The European Union has placed a ban on South African citrus for the remainder of the 2012/13 season. This is after 36 interceptions where Citrus Black Spot was found.

This ban will have no significance for this season as all citrus exports to the EU from South Africa have finished, but the impact of the ban being continued over to the 2013/14 would not only have a big effect on the South African citrus industry, but other markets around the world.

Currently, the South African citrus industry employs 40,000 permanent workers and an additional 40,000 seasonal workers.

Professor V Hattingh from the Citrus Research International, South Africa said, "We are extremely disappointed that the EU have chosen to make this decision now, although symbolic at this point, it raises big concerns for next season."

Copa-Cogeca agreed that it will have no impact as the South African season is already finished. "What we want is measures for 2014. We faced a very high risk of contamination this season and we cannot repeat it next year," Copa-Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said.

He continued, “It is crucial to protect our 500,000 hectares of European citrus fruit orchards and 10 million tonnes of produce from being contaminated with Black Spot. The disease currently does not exist in the EU but it can be spread easily from one fruit to another. We urge the Commission to take action immediately and suspend the import of citrus fruit from South Africa in 2014,” he stressed.

In a draft scientific opinion published in July, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said the chance of citrus black spot taking hold in Europe was "moderately likely". This report was assessed by a panel of international experts who found that there was no risk of CBS spreading to Europe.

At the moment South Africa exports 600,000 tons of citrus to the EU, this is third of Europe's citrus imports. If the ban is continued into next season 120,000 tons of South African citrus from the infected areas would have find new markets.

"This just not feasible," explains Hattingh. "The volume is too big and would saturate other markets, the EU market could also be left very short."

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