Citrus Growers Association (CGA) of Southern Africa CEO Justin Chadwick says his country's industry will "adhere to and implement" the European Union's new rules for mitigating citrus black spot (CBS).
"While the European Commission's Standing Committee on Plant Health agreement on an Implementing Decision relating to citrus black spot is a welcome end to the uncertainty for the industry, the long term prospects for the R8 billion (US$762 million) foreign currency earner, 120,000 jobs and their 1.2 million dependents are far from certain," Chadwick told www.freshfruitportal.com in a statement.
"The decision brings a certainty to the industry and, encouragingly, does not legislate automatic bans after a set number of black spot interceptions – a position mooted in the past.
"Ominously however, the decision does leave room for "additional measures" to be imposed after five interceptions."
He says the onerous fruit testing requirements are within the industry's capabilities both in the orchard and the packhouse, and points out some pros and cons in the new agreement.
"Also, while the targeting of specific high-risk fruit instead of a uniformly applied method is a progressive move, some fruit like early Valencias next year will be unfairly affected as only the late crop poses a higher risk of non-compliance."
After the industry has demonstrated its commitment toward the European position on CBS, and has gone to "great lengths and excessive cost" to do so with testing regimes and a comprehensive risk management process, he says the long term prognosis for the industry still remains in the balance.
"This is simply not economically sustainable nor fair as South Africa has been singled out for special treatment by the EU in this regard.
"This matter has been under dispute since 1992 and despite the substantial efforts of the Departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Trade and Industry, as well as the CGA both locally and abroad, there is still a dispute regarding the magnitude of the risk, or the measures required for adequate mitigation.
"It is now imperative that this dispute – and the science that underlies it – is resolved once and for all."
To bring about long term certainty, Chadwick calls on South Africa's new Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, to prioritize a "swift and amicable" resolution of the CBS dispute with the European Union.
"The future of this important agricultural sector and the many jobs it creates depends on this resolution," he says.