The difficulties tin closing a commercial agreement between the EU and Mercosur are complicating Uruguay's citrus and blueberry exports to the European bloc, according to companies in the sector and the Uruguayan government.
According to the data handled by the Union of Fruit and Vegetable Producers and Exporters of Uruguay (Upefruy), the country's fruit and vegetable exports to the EU fell in 2018 by up to 4 million dollars.
"Exports to Europe last year were somewhat lower than in the previous year due to different factors. There was a fall in demand... but the inability to reach a commercial agreement was also a factor," acknowledged the ambassador of Uruguay in Germany, Gabriel Bellon.
The negotiations to seal a trade agreement between Mercosur and the EU haven't advanced much in years, even though there have been important advances in the last two years.
"We could regain part of the volume lost with the agreement, but I don't believe we'd reach the previous levels," said Alejandro Buratovich, the president of Upefruy.
Heraldo Mendez, the manager of Upefruy, said that Mercosur was not giving the sector the advantages they had expected it would give them, even though it has facilitated exports between the member countries.
Another obstacle, from the Uruguayan point of view, are the non-tariff barriers imposed by the European bloc, according to Buratovich, who indicated that it was more and more difficult to work with Europe due to the increase in phytosanitary requirements.
In addition, Uruguayan fruit and vegetable products have had to pay tariffs to access the EU for the past three years. Before, since it was considered a developing country, it was exempted from paying them thanks to the General System of Preferences.
Finally, Buratovich said that Uruguay was a producer that met the most strict health standards and that also offered good conditions to its workers.
"We are what Europe says it wants, but not what it buys," he stated.