South Africa: citrus industry welcomes black spot response
The Citrus Growers Association (CGA) of Southern Africa praised an expert panel report submitted last month to the European Union in response to alleged risk of citrus black spot via fruit imports.
"It is the first time in the history of the citrus industry that such an august body of scientists have worked together to determine the risk of establishment and spread of a pest or disease associated with citrus.
Scientists from Brazil, Argentina, USA, Uruguay, Australia and South Africa collaborated and shared their considerable expertise on the disease," CGA CEO Justin Chadwick said.
The report outlines a number of points in opposition to the July publication by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that established "moderately likely" risk of citrus black spot spread through trade.
"CBS has never been reported to spread to new areas with fruit (without leaves) as the pathway and accordingly citrus fruit has never been demonstrated to be a pathway for the entry, establishment and spread of CBS," the response paper said.
"CBS has a wide global distribution, but is only known to occur in summer rainfall citrus production areas and nowhere in the world in areas with a Mediterranean climate."
Chadwick's strong approval of the report comes after a difficult trade season between South Africa and the EU. As a reported risk-control measure, EU authorities established a maximum limit of five citrus black spot detections in South African shipments before blocking trade. The African nation surpassed this limit in August.
Chadwick calls the expert report great news for EU producers, South African exporters and European consumers.
He said if such analysis had been available previously that current regulations would look quite different.
"The WTO requires that before phytosanitary measures are introduced, a pest risk assessment must be concluded. If only this CBS PRA had been done when the EU introduced present CBS measures (in 1992) – such measures would not have been introduced, saving millions in treatment costs, reducing disruption in trade and eliminating other risk management system expenditure," he said.
The EFSA's publication in July came to quite different conclusions, however, and judged current EU prevention measures to be effective.
At the time of publication, the European authority recognized the possibility of infection from citrus imports. Overall, citrus black spot spread through trade was rated as moderately likely, with the highest risk coming from plants and fruits containing leaves.
"Under the worst case scenario of no risk reduction options, entry (and generally also transfer to host by ascospores and/or pycnidiospores) was rated as likely for citrus plants for planting and citrus fruit with leaves, moderately likely for citrus fruit without leaves, unlikely for citrus leaves and very unlikely for Tahiti lime fruit without leaves," the authority said in the July report.
"The climate is considered regularly suitable (with high uncertainty) for P. citricarpa ascospore production, dispersal and infection in many EU citrus production areas in September and October and in some locations in May (in Cyprus, Greek islands, Malta, South Italy and Southern Spain), and this is favoured locally by the use of sprinkler and micro-sprinkler irrigation."
The highest risk of citrus black spot was identified for lemons, late-maturing sweet oranges and mandarins.
Following publication of the July paper, the EFSA’s Panel on Plant Health opened a public consultation process, prompting the expert panel response.