Export of all citrus to the EU, except mandarins, would cease but fruit which was already packed and inspected for export on Monday could still be shipped, said CGA’s envoy to the EU, Deon Joubert.
“The Western and Northern Cape are not included in this voluntary suspension,” he said.
The EU had informed the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (DAFF) that four citrus consignments from South Africa had contained the fungal disease which appears as black spots on the skin of citrus fruit.
The CGA intended to ask the DAFF to get evidence from EU authorities which would verify the presence of the fungus at the point of inspection.
If no evidence was received, the voluntary suspension would be reconsidered.
“Earlier this year, the EU announced it would consider imposing additional measures on the import of SA citrus once five interceptions had been made,” said Joubert.
“While the CGA maintains that this threshold is both arbitrary and unscientific in nature, and that CBS does not pose any threat to the EU, today’s decision to suspend trade before the EU threshold is reached was made in the interests of maintaining the ongoing trade with the EU in the medium to long term,” he said.
The country had gone to great lengths to ensure that it met the EU’s citrus export requirements.
“This has included new testing regimes as well as a comprehensive CBS risk management programme,” said Joubert.
Despite the substantial efforts made by the South African citrus industry as a whole, no agreement has been reached with the EU since 1992 on the risk of CBS being transmitted by fruit to citrus orchards in the EU.
Earlier this year, the DAFF said South Africa had always maintained that although it differed with the EU on the risk of the CBS disease, it would continue to work with authorities to comply with EU conditions.
In November, the EU stopped importing citrus fruit from South Africa as there were concerns that CBS could infect local crops.
About 70 percent of the EU’s citrus consumption comes from South Africa.
In June, South African ambassador to Belgium, Mxolisi Nkosi, told Sapa that the EU wanted to stop importing citrus fruit from South Africa. He said the EU was increasingly using protectionism to block certain imports.
The citrus sector contributed about R6 billion to South Africa’s gross domestic product, he said at the time.