SOUTH AFRICA – Citrus Growers Association of South Africa (CGA) wants the intergovernmental organization that regulates and facilitates international trade, World Trade Organization (WTO), to urgently establish a panel to adjudicate on the False Coddling Moth (FCM) regime governing the exportation of South African oranges to the European Union (EU).

CGA has reportedly written to Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC) Minister Ebrahim Patel to call for the establishment of the WTO panel, to alleviate the looming losses that the growers could face during the 2023 export season, said CGA CEO Justin Chadwick.

The CGA believes that convening a WTO Panel is the only option to “put a stop to what is 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.”

The industry sustains more than 140 000 jobs and brings in R30 billion in export revenue a year, Chadwick noted.

In July last year, DTIC lodged a dispute at the WTO but a stalemate was reached between the South African government and the EU. Consultations since then have not made any progress.

CGA argues that while the South African government has presented clear evidence during the consultation process that the country’s existing and stringent FCM risk management system already ensures that 99.9% of oranges entering the EU are pest free, there has been no progress when it comes to reaching mutually agreed concessions on the new regulations.

The association added that only 2 FCM interceptions were detected in the more than 350 000 t of oranges shipped to the region in 2022.

According to CGA, the untimely introduction of the FCM regime has already added more than R200 million in additional costs to the South African citrus industry in 2022, with the expected financial consequences set to increase further this year.

A recent study conducted by the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy estimates additional costs and loss of income amounting to more than R500 million in 2023 should EU authorities continue to enforce the new regulation.

Investment in cold storage technology and a capacity of nearly R1.4 billion will also be required to enable full compliance.

“The CGA is unmoved in its view that the cold treatment prescribed within the new regulations is contrary to scientific evidence, making it an arbitrary and unnecessarily trade restrictive measure and, accordingly, contravenes international requirements for such phytosanitary trade regulations,” Chadwick stated.

“We understand the matter was also raised during last week’s high-level engagements between senior EU and South African government officials with no positive outcome. It is, therefore, clear that political intervention at a ministerial level is required to ensure the major threat that the new regulations pose to the upcoming 2023 citrus season is resolved as a matter of priority.”

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