Ramaphosa hits out at EU over citrus “protectionism”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has delivered a strong message to the European Union over what the government regards as “rising protectionism” and “unfair” trade practices blocking South African agricultural imports, most recently citrus.

Ramaphosa spoke at the South Africa-Finland Business Forum in Pretoria. He subsequently sent out a series of tweets highlighting his comments about EU trade actions.

“We are disappointed at the acts of EU protectionism against South African farming products, most recently against our citrus. We are now the world’s second largest exporter of citrus and believe recent decisions by the EU are unfair,” he tweeted.

And, in a message for Finland, he said “We look to you to make the case against rising protectionism in the EU, and in favour of free trade”.

Citrus exports have recently been in the news because of the sudden imposition of a new requirement that South African oranges have to be subjected to long periods of very low temperatures in order to combat false coddling moth.

This blocked and delayed imports of South African oranges into the EU last year, costing growers R200 million before a temporary solution was agreed.  The next citrus exporting period begins this month.

Growers are contesting the regulation, contending that it is unnecessary and a multi-million rand expense for citrus producers. They also believe it is a protectionist measure to limit competition for Spain’s huge citrus industry.

South Africa’s poultry producers recently submitted a request for import permits to the EU, which took months of preparation. They were then told that there had been a regulation change in the EU in November 2022 and that the application would have to be started all over again.