ICYMI: SA files dispute in citrus fiasco

Hundreds of containers of South African citrus fruits are said to be held up in European ports and not released on the market, and South Africa has filed a dispute with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over new rules of ‘discriminatory’ imports from the EU.

Food For Mzansi reported in June that, despite best efforts by the local citrus industry to convince them otherwise, EU officials have approved new shipping rules that could prevent South African oranges from being sold. reach European consumers.

In a July 12 follow-up, Food For Mzansi reported that due to the release of the new rules mid-shipment, 3.2 million cartons of citrus fruit worth R605 million could be destroyed. upon their arrival in Europe.

This week, reports reached South African producers that early shipments were indeed held up by port authorities.

According to Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa (CGA), the South African Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) tried for several weeks to settle the case.

The South African government then turned to the WTO when it became clear that all other attempts had failed. “The CGA welcomes the DTIC’s decision to file this dispute and elevate it to the multilateral level,” Chadwick said.

ALSO READ: EU vote: SA citrus industry’s worst fear comes true

“In violation of WTO agreements”

Local growers believe ‘drastic and arguably ill-informed’ new regulations from the EU’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCOPAFF) – apparently to prevent false codling moth (FCM) to reach Europe – are not based on solid scientific evidence and simply an attempt by Spanish growers to prevent South African oranges from competing in the European market.

Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Southern African Citrus Growers Association. Photo: Supplied/CGA

“Local industry is still of the view that the [new] cold treatment is contrary to scientific evidence, making it an arbitrary and unnecessarily trade-restrictive measure and therefore in breach of international requirements for such phytosanitary trade regulations,” Chadwick said.

He cites the WTO agreements not to discriminate between imports of different origins, not to impose sanitary and technical barriers to trade that are discriminatory and not based on international standards or solid scientific evidence.

“It is clear that the EU’s protectionist import measures against South Africa violate these conditions. In its request for consultations, South Africa identified 21 inconsistencies in the proposed new phytosanitary measures with the guidelines of the WTO agreement, with which the EU is required to comply.

Chadwick says the fact that EU authorities tried to enforce the new regulations just 23 days after they were published has made it impossible for South African producers to ensure compliance, and “underlines how this legislation is unwarranted and discriminatory, with devastating consequences for our local citrus industry.”

He says that without immediate political intervention, the threat remains that shipments already in Europe or destined for Europe will be destroyed.

“The CGA will continue to work with all government and industry stakeholders to resolve this issue with the degree of urgency required and hopes to ensure that all premium citrus exports to the EU are received and welcomed beyond its borders.”

ALSO READ: Podcast: EU cold processing of SA oranges

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