CAMEROON – The European Union (EU) has banned Cameroon from exporting certain agricultural products to the EU due to their questionable quality and the loopholes in the Cameroonian sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) control system.
In a letter dated 18 April 2022, addressed to the heads of the phytosanitary police stations at the ports of Douala and Kribi, Yaoundé International Airport and the Postal Service, Gabriel Mbaïrobe, Cameroonian Minister in charge of Agriculture, nevertheless informed them that his administration was “working serenely to prepare technical files in accordance with the new regulation in order to facilitate exports”.
The fruit is blamed for being exposed to ‘certain species and types of flies’. The EU says that the only way to remedy the situation is to apply a systemic approach or post-harvest treatment to ensure that the exported product is free of the pests.
The EU had earlier in 2018 threatened to ban fruits and vegetables from Cameroon due to the same reasons.
It had stated that the system lacked many of the elements required by the international and the European Union standards.
An audit of the Cameroonian sanitary and phytosanitary control system realized on May 8-18, 2017 revealed that there were significant weaknesses in its organization and implementation which compromise its efficiency.
To that end, the pre-export checks couldn’t guarantee that the products comply with the imports requirements set by the European Union.
It has also been noted that despite the compliance certifications, high volumes of substances harmful to both humans and the environment such as pesticide residues, fruit flies and molds are found in the fruits and vegetables from Cameroon.
Babacar Samb, an expert of COLE-ACP who animated a meeting on the subject in early April 2018 in Yaoundé, told Intégration that between 2015 and 2017, 159 cases were notified to the government.
Furthermore, according to some members of the fruits and vegetable producers and exporters, this year, Cameroon has been notified of new cases. Fruits and vegetables officially represent 15% of Cameroon’s export to that region.
Interestingly, several other African countries have faced the EU’s ban. They include Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania.
Technical trade barriers
Just as developing countries are beginning to overcome some major hurdles in their quest to expand trade with industrial countries, domestic technical regulations present a new challenge.
The use of technical barriers has grown during the last two decades. In an effort to regularize such standards, the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures came into force in 1995.
The agreement was designed to provide uniform rules for all laws, regulations and requirements regarding how a product is produced, processed, stored or transported, to ensure that its import does not pose a risk to human, animal or plant health.
Sanitary measures are aimed at safeguarding human and animal health, while phytosanitary ones are intended to protect plants.
Since 1 September 2019, the new European directive has sharpened the phytosanitary requirements with extra protective measures and reduced the risk of fruit flies, for example.
These new regulations put more pressure on plant health authorities in supplying countries. Authorities in producing countries have to be able to declare a region pest-free or to perform checks on specific areas and product treatments.
The newly established African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could boost African farmers’ efforts to compete with the EU. The trade agreement, which eliminates tariffs between African countries by 90 per cent and tackles customs delays, could foster intra-African trade in agriculture.