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Spanish call for action to lower imports of South African citrus

The Minister of Economy and Business, Nadia Calviño, assured today that the Government is not aware of an increase in citrus imports from South Africa that would make it necessary to request the European Commission (EC) activates measures to stop its entry into the Union European (EU).

Calviño said this in Congress, as an answer to the urgent intervention formulated by deputy Joan Baldoví, who defended the activation of the safeguard clause of the Agreement between the European Union (EU) and the countries of South Africa, because "imports from South Africa are sinking the citrus campaign."

Since the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, was in Brussels and couldn't answer Baldovi, Calviño defended the EU border phytosanitary controls, which have intercepted 48 South African citrus fruits infected by the black spot disease in 2018.

She said the safeguard clause could only be activated if the circumstances provided for in Article 34 of the Association Agreement were met; for example that the product in question was being imported in increasing quantities and under conditions that cause serious damage to Community agricultural product markets.

"Based on this article, the EU could initiate an investigation to apply a bilateral safeguard to evaluate with objective and quantifiable data that the entrance of the citrus fruits of South Africa is causing changes in the level of sales or decreases in production or productivity, among other things," she said.

"Only when any of these circumstances is confirmed could we introduce temporary tariff quotas with or without other additional measures," she added.

Before presenting a proposal in this regard, she said, the Ministries of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Industry, as well as the Ministry of Trade and Tourism have to assess that there is damage or threat of serious damage to a sector.

However, "according to the data that the government manages, there hasn't been a big enough increase in imports of citrus from South Africa that could harm the sector in a way that we should request the EC introduce tariff quotas or other measures," she insisted. In fact, according to the data they have, "imports of oranges from South Africa to the EU remain at levels that are very similar to the level in the years prior to the Association Agreement."

Calviño said they were going to meet tomorrow with agricultural associations, Agri-food Cooperatives, Fepex, and Intercitrus at MAPA's headquarters to analyze the situation of the citrus sector, "as the Executive is sensitive to the difficulties that the sector faces."

In her opinion, in addition to monitoring the agreement, "we must think about other types of measures that could be related to the production of juice so that the production is not lost and by better organizing the offer."

In his speech, Baldovi said the farmers claimed they were being paid decade old prices for their products, i.e. 10 to 20 cents/ kg, and that South Africa was flooding Europe with their citrus.

He argued that the producers do consider the Agreement with South Africa is having consequences and that they want Minister Luis Planas ask the EC implement the anticipated safeguard clause, just as Spain requested for Cambodia's rice.

Source: EFE

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