South African Citrus Growers Seeking Return to Spanish Market

Citrus growers in South Africa, the world’s second-biggest exporter of the fruits, want to resume shipments to Spain once the risk of trading bans stemming from black spot disease eases, a farmers’ lobby group said.

The country said in March it would avoid sending fruits to Spanish ports to avert a possible Europe-wide ban, after officials there refused South African producers permission to inspect testing facilities. The nation had to halt exports to the region last year after European Union authorities intercepted 16 shipments affected with black spot disease.

“Of course we would like to go back,” Deon Joubert, the Citrus Growers’ Association’s EU envoy, said by phone from Cape Town on Thursday. “We would like to normalize things as soon as possible.”

The EU accounts for about 43 percent of the nation’s citrus exports, generating about 4 billion rand ($320 million) a year, Joubert said. Black spot is a fungus that affects some South African produce, causing blemishes on the peel of the fruit. The growers’ group is disputing findings by the European Food Safety Authority that the disease can survive transport and storage and could establish in EU regions.

Justin Chadwick, the chief executive officer of the CGA, said in March that Spanish refusal to allow producers to inspect testing methodology raised a “red flag regarding the risk of sending any of the fruit to those ports.”

South Africa is the largest citrus shipper after Spain, according to the growers’ group. Turkey ranks third, Egypt fourth and China fifth.

Lemon Suspension

The association on Thursday said it will suspend lemon exports to the region after the EU found three consignments of the fruit had black spot. That will lead to financial losses for producers, it said. The nation will still ship other citrus products to Europe, Joubert said.

South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and other industry officials are visiting EU countries this week to learn more about dealing with black spot, he said.

“South Africa is trying very, very hard to improve the situation,” Joubert said. “The important part is that when they find black spot within the boarders at the inspection point, it is very low.”

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