South Africa Seeks New Markets for Citrus Fruit as EU Ban Looms

South Africa is targeting China and India as new destinations for citrus fruit exports following the European Union’s threat of an import ban, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said today.

The EU in February said it would restrict citrus imports should it intercept five incidences a year of citrus black spot, a fungus which causes blemishes on fruit. The trading block accounts for 40 percent, or 3 billion rand ($308 million) in value, of South Africa’s citrus exports, Pieter Nortje, chairman of the Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa, told reporters in Johannesburg.

“We are not replacing the EU market,” Joemat-Pettersson said. “The citrus industry has been challenged in the EU so we cannot put all our eggs in one basket. We believe that India and China are the countries with the most opportunities.”

India levies a 40 percent duty and China requires cold storage of sub-zero degrees on imports, Nortje said.

“We believe it could be eased and relaxed slightly,” Joemat-Pettersson said.

The EU last week in trade talks gave South Africa a temporary reprieve from the requirement on citrus black spot for this year only, Nortje said.

“We do have a big problem in Europe,” said Nortje. “It’s not a wake-up call, it’s been coming for 15 years.”

The first incidence of citrus black spot for the year was reported last week following 39 interceptions in 2012, Nortje said. “We will exceed five,” he said.

South Africa’s citrus fruit industry provides 60,000 permanent and up to 100,000 temporary jobs, Joemat-Pettersson said.

The country has already started shipping smaller quantities to other new markets, including Zimbabwe and South Korea, said Justin Chadwick, chief executive officer of the Citrus Growers Association.

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