South Africa Resumes Citrus Exports to EU After Resolving Disagreement

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Published Aug 12, 2022 8:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

South Africa has struck a deal with the European Union (EU) to end an impasse surrounding citrus fruits exports to Europe. For the past two weeks, tonnes of oranges have been rotting in containers stuck at European harbors following a disagreement on import rules between South Africa and EU.

According South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, the deal with the EU should the facilitate resumption in processing of citrus fruit reefers held at European ports.

"We had a fruitful meeting with the EU last Friday. We have managed to negotiate a settlement, which will see clearing all containers stuck in EU ports. So far we have cleared more than 300 of the 509 containers stuck in the EU," said Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson of the department.

In July, EU introduced new phytosanitary measures aimed at tackling the spread of the false codling moth, native to sub-Saharan Africa. This greatly affected South African fresh produce farmers. Estimates show that citrus exports worth $40 million were stuck in containers at European ports by early August.

Under the EU directive, the farmers had to keep the fruits at extremely cold temperatures of two degrees Celsius or lower for 25 days. At the time the measures were introduced, some ships were already at the sea carrying hundreds of reefer containers, resulting to being held on arrival for compliance.

“This is a complete and utter disaster. Food of exceptional quality, which poses no risk, is just sitting there. It is really a disaster,” South African Citrus Growers Association (CGA) CEO Justin Chadwick told AFP.

South Africa had also filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization last month protesting the EU’s phytosanitary requirements. South Africa argued that the measures were “not based on science, discriminatory and excessive” for producers, threatening their livelihood.

After Spain, South Africa is the world’s second largest exporter of fresh citrus fruits. According to data by CGA, Europe forms the largest market for the almost $2 billion South African citrus industry, representing 37 percent of all the country’s exports.