/ 22 April 2023

Citrus growers plead for urgent government intervention on export restrictions

About 40% of South Africa's citrus exports go to the EU
Citrus growers say ‘unjustified, discriminatory and scientifically flawed’ new regulations are a political move to block South African citrus from entering the EU. Photo: Gallo Images

Citrus growers face a potential loss estimated at R500 million and about 20% of oranges produced for export to Europe not being shipped this season over what they say are  unjustified and discriminatory new restrictions.

The European Union imposed new phytosanitary requirements on South African citrus imports in July 2022 to address false codling moth. The citrus pest is native to South Africa and there is zero tolerance for it in the EU.

The Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa (CGA) said it had written to Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel and the agriculture minister, Thoko Didiza, for an urgent update on the government’s interventions to stop the EU requiring refrigeration for oranges. The association says this stipulation will leave some farmers without a livelihood.

With the industry facing a number of serious headwinds over the past two years, including soaring farm input and shipping costs; power outages and operational issues at ports, the 2023 season will be a make or break one for many growers, CGA chief executive Justin Chadwick said.

“As a result, these new regulations, if implemented when the season kicks-off, could be the final nail in the coffin for many of them as well as the thousands of jobs they support,” he added.

The agriculture ministry has received the CGA letter and will respond accordingly, department spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo told the Mail & Guardian.

Chadwick said although the association was grateful for the support shown by the  government, urgent action was needed before the end of this month to safeguard the future sustainability of the industry as well as the 130 000 jobs it supports.

“This should include taking the next step, which is calling for the establishment of a World Trade Organisation panel to adjudicate on the matter,” he said.

Chadwick said there had been ongoing consultations, but very limited progress had been made to avert the crisis that will befall the industry should growers have to implement these new regulations when oranges start being shipped to European markets in less than two weeks’ time.

“The CGA maintains the position that the unjustified, discriminatory, and scientifically flawed new regulations are nothing more than a political move by Spanish producers to block South African citrus from entering the EU region,” Chadwick said.