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SA’s citrus growers need government’s aid following EU’s harsh laws

By Ntombi Mhlongo

South Africa’s citrus growers, whose export season is due to commence, have urged the government to intervene in tackling the European Union’s (EU) cold-treatment regulations for citrus, which is seen to cost the industry over E2 billion in additional costs this year.

In June last year, the EU’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed voted in favour of a new requirement, forcing southern African countries, including South Africa, to implement extreme cold treatment to tackle false codling moth (FCM).

Worth noting is that when the South African citrus fruits industry sneezes, Eswatini catches a cold. This is because Eswatini is part of the Southern African citrus fruits industry and relies heavily on South Africa. Producers in South Africa prefer to export fresh oranges rather than to sell to processors as export prices are at least eight times higher than prices achieved from processors.

Netherlands, Botswana, Mozambique, Mauritius, Eswatini, Zambia and Zimbabwe are the biggest markets for South African orange juice exports. According to Moneyweb, if EU authorities continue to enforce the cold-treatment laws, South Africa’s citrus industry looks to incur additional costs to the tune of R1.4 billion, for the required cold storage technology and capacity to be fully compliant, the Citrus Growers Association said in a statement.

Other additional costs and loss of income would spiral to R500 million in 2023, the CGA added.

“This poses a major threat to the future sustainability and profitability of the industry that sustains more than 140 000 jobs and brings in R30 billion in export revenue annually,” it said.

The association, which is now calling Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel, to assist in setting up a World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel to adjudicate on regulation, has described it as “an arbitrary and unnecessarily trade restrictive measure”.

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