Brussels to implement mandatory cold treatment for South African oranges

BELGIUM – Brussels has purposed to implement the cold treatment regulation for South African oranges before the start of the southern hemisphere export season, which is in just a few weeks.

Brussels’ firmness on cold treatment and its immediate application are evident in the letter that the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, sent to reply to the letter drafted by the EU Citrus Contact Group (France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy).

The move follows growing calls from the Spanish sector for better protection against pests and diseases amid a surge in interceptions of citrus consignments carrying pathogens in the past year.

The letter was addressed to the European Commission’s Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade, Dombrovskis, to the Commissioner for Agriculture, Wojciechowski and to the Commissioner for Health and Plant Food Safety herself, Stella Kyriakides.

The letter reminds the citrus-producing Member States that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has expressed its opinion on the need to apply cold treatment to prevent the spread of the false moth pest in the EU.

It makes clear the official position of the Community Government on its intention to apply cold treatment for South African orange.

However, following the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) review of the EU’s proposal, the Member States are yet to receive the technical requirements for the application of cold treatment that prevents the arrival of Thaumatotibia leucotreta.

This confirms the fears of the European sector, which saw how the implementation of the measure, which was approved by the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF) and subsequently processed, including the first step by the WTO, might not occur before the beginning of the upcoming South African campaign.

“Cold treatment is the only solution that will bring calm for South Africa and the EU on this issue. It guarantees no South African shipment will be intercepted for having false moths, which could lead to the closure of the EU market.

“South Africa and Zimbabwe were responsible for all but one of the interceptions of this plague at the European borders in 2021,” said Inmaculada Sanfeliu, Chair of the Citrus Management Committee.

The European Commission drew up two proposals, the first, on false codling moth, would require all third country orange imports from areas where the pest is present to be subjected to cold treatment, and for existing treatments and control measures to be reinforced.

The second, relating to citrus black spot, would require a strengthening of existing health and traceability controls in the country of origin and at the point of entry.

Cold treatment

Sanfeliu called for the immediate implementation of cold treatment for oranges, as approved by the SCoPAFF, and said the sector will fight for the future expansion of the measure in mandarins and grapefruits, as they also host the pest.

“Europe’s phytosanitary safety is at stake. Cold treatment is globally recognized as highly effective in ensuring the absence of this pest (enough to kill 99.9968% of the pest),” she said.

Cold treatment is already part of the South African Risk Management System for FCM. Nonetheless different cold treatment (time-temperature) components are applied based on the objective risk assessment in the systems approach, that results from diligent and comprehensive weekly monitoring of any FCM presence during pre-harvest citrus orchards in South Africa.

Introducing a blanket, one-size-fits-all cold treatment requirement invalidates the benefits achieved pre-harvest on minimal chemical intervention and the whole idea of a systems approach.

The proposed legislations require African countries to implement a drastic mandatory cold treatment of 00C- I0C for at least 16 days for oranges headed to Europe.

According to Deon Joubert, special Citrus Growers Association envoy for market access and EU matters, the FCM risk from South Africa to the EU has not increased since FCM was declared an EU quarantine pest 3 years ago.

“The record over the past three years has been 14, 19 and 15 interceptions (NONCs). This is not an upward trend,” he said.

South Africa has successfully traded citrus fruit with the EU for over 100 years.

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