EU’s black spot stance challenged

Pressure is mounting for the EU to overturn control measures imposed for citrus black spot (CBS).

In what may be a breakthrough for the local and global citrus industry, a body of scientists from SA, Brazil, Argentina, the US, Uruguay and Australia have submitted a report to the EU concluding that CBS could not enter the EU through trade in citrus fruit.

This was in opposition to claims by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that there was a “moderately likely” risk of CBS being spread through trade.The EFSA also said that while CBS had a wide global distribution, it was only known to occur in summer rainfall citrus production areas, and not in Mediterranean climates.

The EFSA is now considering the scientists’ claims and will release a pest risk assessment (PRA) at the end of December, said Justin Chadwick, CEO of the Citrus Growers Association.

The cost of complying with the EU’s stringent CBS control measures is becoming increasingly demanding. Citrus from CBS regions in SA were halted in September and the department of agriculture had received 33 official notifications of CBS interceptions in the EU this season – 31 in orange consignments, two in grapefruit.

Production units implicated in interceptions were immediately deregistered from exporting to the EU,

Should the EFSA accept the conclusion by the international panel, it would be good news for SA exporters, European consumers and producers, said Chadwick.“It will save unnecessary costs related to CBS control measures. CBS orchard treatment control costs will decrease as CBS will need to be controlled as a quality issue rather than as a phytosanitary issue.

“It is good news for authorities – in SA inspectors will be freed up from the CBS inspections, while in the EU member state, plant-health authorities will no longer need to inspect for CBS.

“It will also be good news for the environment as it will lead to reduced application of plant-health products in the orchards,” said Chadwick.

Until then, current CBS measures in the EU remain unchanged.