The Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa (CGA) has issued a written appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to review a labeling system for fruit exports that has been implemented across the Eurasian Customs Union (EACU) since 2015.
While the CGA was unable to share a copy of the letter, the organization’s CEO Justin Chadwick told Fresh Fruit Portal the industry believes the EurAsian Conformity Mark (EAC) labeling rules are one of the reasons behind a decline in exports to the world’s largest country.
South Africa’s citrus exports to Russia fell from 129,000 metric tons (MT) in 2013 to 66,000MT last year, which Chadwick also attributes to less purchasing power in the Russian economy.
“What is required by Russia now, in fact all of the EAC bloc [including Kazakhstan, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan] is that every carton must have a label affixed to it, and on that carton there’s a whole lot of information that needs to be put on the label – that includes the receiver’s name, address and various other details,” Chadwick said.
“The way we operate in South Africa is we pack in packhouses, we make up the pallets in the packhouse and then it goes down to the port, and in many cases the destination and receiver isn’t known until it’s in the port or in the warehouses of the port.
“So to put those labels on at that point would mean breaking the pallet up, taking it apart, affixing all the labels and putting the pallet together again. So nobody’s going to do that, it’s just going to take too much labor and cost to do that.”
He said the industry has been asking for the Russian and other EAC authorities to accept the present barcodes on the pallets as sufficient, “because all that information is put onto the pallet once the receiver and destination is known”.
“It’s not that the destination isn’t made available, we just don’t affix it onto every carton,” he said.
“Exporters have made different arrangements…they’ve managed to find other ways of meeting the requirement and that’s been accepted by the authorities, but the concern is that there’s always a risk that what’s accepted today might not be accepted tomorrow.
“So your consignment might arrive in Russia and be rejected for some reason because you haven’t met the requirements exactly. We would prefer that we all do things according to the official requirements to take into consideration the way that we export our fruit.”
He said export figures to date showed a “fair amount” of South African fruit had gone to Russia already this season.
“Thus far we haven’t had any issues coming back from the receivers so we take it whatever system the guys are using is acceptable thus far,” he said.
When asked about exports to other EACU countries, Chadwick said the vast majority of Russia-bound fruit is shipped to St Petersburg and distributed from there, so it is difficult to know how much makes its way to other countries in the union.
Headline photo: www.shutterstock.com