The EU threat to SA’s citrus industry

South Africa’s R30-billion citrus industry and its 140 000 jobs are on the line in a dispute with the European Union (EU).

South African citrus growers have asked for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to intervene in its dispute with the EU over the export of South African oranges. Last year, while consignments were being shipped from South Africa, the EU suddenly imposed new restrictions, requiring cold treatment between 0°C to -1°C for 16 days before export. The EU said the new regulations were necessary to prevent the import of false coddling moth: the SA industry said existing regulations were perfectly adequate and that the EU was trying to protect Spanish citrus producers.

The dispute cost citrus growers R200 million before a temporary settlement allowed some imports last year, but it has not been resolved. The next export season for South African oranges starts in May. 

Compliance with the new EU conditions would require investment of at least R500 million, according to the independent Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP). Full compliance would cost nearly R1.4 billion in cold storage capacity and technology.

Engineering News reports that the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) has called for a WTO panel to adjudicate, saying this is a trade dispute because the EU restrictions are “arbitrary and unnecessary”. It has asked the South African government to take this up as a matter of urgency.

“The CGA believes that convening a WTO Panel is the only option to put a stop to what is clearly nothing more than a politically motivated move by unions within the Spanish citrus industry to decimate the businesses of thousands of South African growers and the livelihoods they support.”