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Months of high-level engagements between South Africa and the European Union on the EU’s zero-tolerance approach to citrus black spot have yielded no progress.

With the European Union upholding the restrictions imposed on South Africa’s citrus exports last July, Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza suggested that his nation’s growers might have to start looking elsewhere for markets.

Didiza: “I must be honest with you, it’s very difficult. The European Union have been digging their heels and they’re not wanting to move. They want us to comply with new regulations that they have put in place.”

In mid-July 2022 the European Union imposed new restrictions on South African citrus imports. The new phytosanitary requirements were meant to address false codling moth (FCM), a citrus pest that is native to South Africa and for which there is zero tolerance in the EU. The brand-new phytosanitary regulations shook South Africa’s export farmers and have since hurt the profitability of local growers.

South Africa’s citrus export season starts in May. In order to avert the impending crisis facing the sector, urgent change is critical, industry experts say. However, meetings between the agriculture department, the department of trade, industry and competition and the EU have not brought on positive change.

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