New rules aimed at protecting European citrus crops from the non-native plant disease that if brought in to the region could pose a serious threat to the EU's citrus producing areas found in Southern Europe.
The emergency measures were endorsed by Member State experts will mean that citrus fruits imported from South Africa will be subject to more stringent criteria such as recording pre and post-harvest chemical treatments and mandatory registration of packing houses as well as on-site official inspections at citrus orchards.
"Plant protection on EU territory is of the utmost importance and the EU had no choice but to impose a stricter inspection regime for South African citrus fruit,” said Commissioner for Health, Tonio Borg. “Systematic sampling and testing of consignments should prevent this harmful plant disease from taking hold in Europe's citrus orchards to the detriment of our farming sector. We had to take these measures because of the high number of recent interception of infected citrus fruits at European border controls."
As part of the new measures, a sample of at least 600 of each type of citrus fruit per 30 tonnes will need to be taken by the South African authorities. All fruit showing symptoms will be tested, moreover, a sample per 30 tonnes of 'Valencia' oranges will also be tested.
The Commission said that in the event that recurring interceptions of citrus fruit contaminated with citrus black spot are detected in the coming months, these measures will be further strengthened and additional restrictions may be imposed.
No distinction between citrus fruits for fresh consumption and citrus fruits for processing is made.
Citrus black spot is a harmful fungal disease caused by Phyllosticta citricarpa (McAlpine) Van der Aa. The disease attacks citrus plants causing high losses to citrus fruit production, but is not contagious for humans.
During the 2013 export season (from April to November) around 600 000 tonnes of citrus fruit were imported from South Africa. This represents approximately one third of the EU's total import of citrus fruit, with oranges being the main citrus commodity.