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EU ends ban on Argentine citrus imports

EU ends ban on Argentine citrus imports © Plantaciones de Limon

© Plantaciones de Limon


The European Commission has lifted its ban on citrus imports from Argentina. Trade was suspended last August following a number of interceptions of Citrus Black Spot in shipments. Argentina’s plant health authority Senasa said the new measure would come into effect on 1 May.

Senasa’s president, Carlos Paz, said the lifting of the ban followed concerted efforts by the public and private sectors to strengthen control measures in the field and packhouse and increase the number of staff on its regional teams in order to improve the monitoring and supervision of citrus exports.

Citrus accounts for four out of every ten fruits that Argentina exports and the EU is one of its biggest markets, taking around 200,000 tons of citrus in the last five years.

The measures and conditions for the re-entry of citrus fruit to the EU include additional actions that must be carried out both by the different actors of the private and public sectors.

These include mandatory field application of phytosanitary treatments against Black Spot; official verification of the application of these treatments; laboratory analysis of the fruit sampled both in the field and in packaging when suspicious symptoms of the disease are detected; official communication to the EU of the lists of production units and names of the companies responsible for the units, as well as updates to these lists.

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Freshfel Europe calls on EU and Japan to build fresh produce trade

Interview with Philippe Binard, general secretary of Freshfel Europe

Philippe Binard © Freshfel Europe


Freshfel Europe is calling on EU and Japanese authorities to build fresh produce trade on the outcome of the new EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. The European Commission hosted an online seminar on 19-20 April between the EU and Japan to facilitate discussions on how to boost trade for EU agriculture products on the Japanese market. The new EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement is now fully in force and it is the right moment to evaluate the state-of-play and future outlook of the agreement. Freshfel Europe voiced the views and expectations of the European fresh fruit and vegetables sector on the many pending dossiers and on missed opportunities to grow business within the new agreement. 

Despite the coming into force of the new EU-Japan Economic Agreement and the positive outlook resulting from the visit of Commissioner Hogan in Tokyo in May 2019, no significant progress has been made to new market access to Japan for the export of high quality EU fresh fruit and vegetables to the high value Japanese market of 127 million inhabitants. This was the key message of Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard at the EU-Japan seminar entitled ‘How the EU ensures the highest quality for its agriculture export’. Binard said: “Despite all the efforts from the EU and more than 10 years of negotiations and clear interest for Japanese traders to import high quality, safe and sustainable fresh produce from the EU, too many applications for market access to the Japanese authorities have not been concluded yet.” 

Today EU exports of fresh produce to Japan total less than 10,000 tons, representing only a small percentage of the total 2.4m tons of imports into Japan from third countries. Binard said: “Multiple market access applications are pending ranging from Italian and Greek kiwifruit, Belgian pears and tomatoes, Portuguese and Hungarian cherries, and persimmons from Spain. Many other provisions of existing protocols also need to be revised to remove pre-clearance, broaden the scope of protocols to more varieties or substitute methyl-bromide treatment by more environmentally friendly systems approaches.” 

According to Freshfel, it is now time to deliver the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement and speed up negotiations to open new market opportunities. EU fresh produce represents a seal of quality, reliability and diversity for Japanese consumers. On the occasion of the UN International Year of Fruit and Vegetables 2021 authorities should prioritise fresh produce in their market access negotiations and urgently unlock pending hurdles. The EU fruit and vegetables sector exports to 140 destinations around the world based on international standards and strict EU regulatory environment. EU growers and exporters are demonstrating their expertise to handle high quality and safe produce, brining competitiveness and mastering logistic skills to access the most sophisticated markets. Binard concluded: “Under the new bilateral agreement, the momentum today should not be missed. The EU and Japan should work hard in the coming months to build trade on the new business environment of the Agreement and secure that Japanese trade and consumers can enjoy the high quality and safety of European fresh produce in their daily healthy diet.”

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Favourable prospects for EU agricultural sectors

Favourable prospects for EU agricultural sectors © European Commission
© European Commission


The European Commission’s first 2021 edition of the short-term outlook for EU agricultural markets concludes that the EU agricultural sector showed resilience throughout the Covid-19 crisis. The sector did relatively well thanks to increased retail sales and home consumption. In addition, prospects are favourable with a dynamic global demand and the reopening of food services (restaurants, bars, cafés) expected once the vaccination campaign is sufficiently advanced.

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UNICA to form part of 30 EU experts to define legislative framework of sustainable food system

UNICA to form part of 30 EU experts to define legislative framework of sustainable food system
Photo: Unica Group

Within the ‘From the Field to the Table’ strategy, an essential element of the Green Pact, UNICA has been selected, in the person of its director, Enrique de los Ríos, among the 30 European experts who will collaborate in the working group which will help develop the proposed legislative framework for sustainable food systems.

In accordance with the ‘From the Field to the Table’ Strategy, the framework legislation of the sustainable food system to:

  • promote policy coherence at national and EU level.

  • integrate sustainability into all food-related policies.

  • strengthen the resilience of the EU food system.

The European Commission will prepare a proposal for adoption at the end of 2023. The objective is to progressively raise sustainability standards, involving all stakeholders in the food system.

The Commission is rethinking food-related policies in the EU to strengthen its contribution to a fairer, healthier and more environmentally friendly food system. Therefore, different departments of the EU, including Agriculture and Rural Development, have requested the Joint Research Centre to create a multidisciplinary group of experts in food, including UNICA, in order to develop concepts that they could be part of a future legislative proposal for sustainable food systems.


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EFSA report finds more pesticide residues in strawberries and cabbage

EFSA report finds more pesticide residues in strawberries and cabbage
Photo: EFSA

The latest report on pesticide residues in food in the European Union is now available, giving a snapshot of residue levels found in a basket of products widely consumed in the territory. A total of 96,302 samples were analysed in 2019, 96.1% of which fell within legally permitted levels. For the subset of 12,579 samples analysed as part of the EU-coordinated control programme (EUCP), 98% were within legal limits.

The EUCP analysed samples randomly collected from 12 food products – apples, head cabbages, lettuce, peaches, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, oat grain, barley grain, wine (red and white), cow’s milk and swine fat. Of those samples analysed:

  • 6,674 or 53% were found to be free of quantifiable levels of residues.

  • 5,664 or 45% contained one or more residues in concentrations below or equal to permitted levels.

  • 241 or 2% contained residues exceeding the legal maximum of which 1% led to legal actions.

The coordinated programme covers similar baskets of products on a three-year rotation, which means upward or downward trends can be identified for specific goods. So, compared to 2016, the exceedance rate fell for peaches (from 1.9% to 1.5%), lettuce (2.4% to 1.8%), apples (2.7% to 2.1%) and tomatoes (2.6% to 1.7%).

Exceedances rose for strawberries (1.8% to 3.3%), head cabbages (1.1% to 1.9%), and wine grapes (0.4% to 0.9%). The results of the coordinated programme are available on EFSA’s website as browsable charts and graphs, making the data more accessible to non-specialists.


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India’s grape exports to the EU fall 18%  

India’s grape exports to the EU fall 18%  
Photo: Maylen grape harvest – Seasonz

Grape exports to the EU from India have dropped nearly 18% this season, reports Financial Express. Exports to the EU totalled 74.9 million tons in 2020-21 (December-April). Vilas Shinde, chairman of the Sahayadri Farmers Producer Company, said the harvest was delayed by 15-20 days as unseasonal rains delayed pruning of vineyards. Normally by September, around 25% of the pruning is completed and another 20% is completed by October 15. 

“Now a glut-like situation is happening because the harvesting is in full swing resulting in high arrivals simultaneously from most vineyards. This is posing as a major challenge to growers, exporters and even buyers in Europe because of the lack of storage facilities,” Shinde said. 

Jagannath Khapre, president of the All India Grape Exporters Association, said that while the season has been slow, exports should pick up momentum in the next few weeks. Of the 74.9 million tons of grapes exported so far this season, 49.9 million tons have been exported to the Netherlands, 12.3 million tons to the UK, and 6.9 million tons to Germany. 


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South Africa remains top source of citrus imports to EU

South Africa remains top source of citrus imports to EU © Eurofresh Distribution
© Eurofresh Distribution


The EU’s citrus imports hit a new high in 2020, with South Africa the number-one non-EU source of citrus, accounting for 44% of the total volume, according to data published by the Valencian Association of Farmers. The 2020 volume of 968,600 tons was up 24.8% from the previous season. The main growth segments are late mandarins, which coincide with early Valencian varieties. Egypt is in second position, with 334,350 tons (+16% from 2019). Turkey’s exports were up by 49.5% to 190,300 tons. Meanwhile, Morocco’s shipments fell, due to the drop in production caused by drought, while Argentina was subjected to an EU ban on imports of lemons and oranges after 133 interceptions of pests and diseases were recorded in their merchandise.

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EU and US conclude negotiations on agricultural quotas 

EU and US conclude negotiations on agricultural quotas 


The European Union and the United States have reached an agreement to adjust the European Union’s World Trade Organisation (WTO) agricultural quotas, following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This is the culmination of two years of negotiations in the WTO framework to divide these EU quotas, with part of the volume remaining with the EU 27, and part going to the UK, based on recent trade flows. The agreement covers dozens of quotas and billions of euros of trade including for beef, poultry, rice, dairy products, fruits and vegetables and wines.

Commenting on the agreement reached in principle, Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciejowski said: “I am delighted we have reached agreement with our most important trade partner the US. This agreement – done inside the framework of the WTO – preserves the original volumes but shares them between the EU and the UK. It gives certainty and stability to agricultural trade and our markets. I am particularly pleased that this agreement marks the significance of our trade and economic relationship. This sends a good signal of our commitment to work together both bilaterally and in the WTO framework. I want to thank my team and our US colleagues for a job well done”.

The EU is conducting similar tariff rate quotas (TRQ) apportionment negotiations with twenty-one other partners having rights to access these quotas, and has concluded negotiations already with Argentina, Australia, Norway, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia and others.

Once the Commission has adopted the EU-US Agreement, it will then be sent to the Council and European Parliament for ratification, so that it can enter into force as soon as possible.


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EU grape crop shrinks

EU grape crop shrinks
Photo: Eurofresh Distribution

The EU’s 2020/21 (June/May) table grape crop is forecast to drop by 11% y-o-y, according to USDA data, mostly due to smaller harvests in main producer Italy (-20%), where severe frosts occurred during flowering at the end of March. Mid-September rains and hailstorms contributed to the decline. Production decreases are also forecast in Bulgaria (-7.1%), and Spain (-4.5%). However, increased quantities are forecast in France (+8.7%), Romania (+3.7%), Portugal (+1.2%), and Greece (+1.1%). Overall fruit quality is forecast to be excellent with higher sugar content due to hot temperatures in July, August, and early September.


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COEXPHAL and PROEXPORT request EU support for circular economy in fruit and vegetable sector

COEXPHAL and PROEXPORT request EU support for circular economy in fruit and vegetable sector
Photo: Proexport

The Association of Organisations of Producers of Fruits and Vegetables of Almería (COEXPHAL) together with the Association of Producers-Exporters of Fruits and Vegetables of the Region of Murcia (PROEXPORT) have applied to the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) for funds to set up a project with an estimated budget of €69 million aimed at advancing the sustainability of the fruit and vegetable sector in south-eastern Spain.

This Expression of Interest brings together a series of innovation and investment initiatives with defined objectives. These include promoting the circular economy in the entire fruit and vegetable value chain by reducing environmental footprints, helping to mitigate climate change by reducing the carbon footprint, contributing to the decarbonisation of the economy, improving biodiversity in the fruit and vegetable environment – in the production and marketing of fruits and vegetables – and guarantee the activity with the protection and improvement of the use of water.

To achieve this, the presented project includes three major measures:

  • Collect information on the technologies available for said objectives such as the recovery of waste, water, reduction of environmental footprints, energy, biodiversity, etc., and create a tool to enable the companies and cooperatives of both associations to obtain a diagnosis as a starting point.

  • Promote a set of research and innovation projects aimed at implementing the circular economy in the fruit and vegetable value chain, especially in the field of plant by-products and waste, as well as in water.

  • Influence an innovative investment by companies in available technologies to reduce environmental footprints and investments in technologies and biotechnologies generated in the project itself: recovery of waste, purification and reuse of water, revegetation of the agricultural environment and development of smart labels.

This Circular Economy Expression of Interest, promoted by COEXPHAL and PROEXPORT, has the support of the Almería Chamber of Commerce and the Sustainability Area of ​​the Almería City Council.

Expressions of Interest are an instrument for identifying projects that point towards two of the four axes on which the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan of the Spanish economy acts. The Spanish Recovery Plan, inspired by the Climate Change Agenda, the 2030 Agenda and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, will receive €72 million in the next three years from the Next Generation EU Recovery Fund, approved by the European Council on July 21.