On 3rd May, members of Spanish citrus organisation Intercitrus held a working lunch with the Commissioner of Agriculture, Phil Hogan, as well as a delegation of the European People’s Party (PPE) composed of the vice-president of this group, Esteban González Pons, the MEP and rapporteur for the reform of the CAP, Esther Herranz, and the president of the PP-CV, Isabel Bonig. The representatives of Intercitrus reported the “bad” development of the citrus campaign, damaged by the presence in Europe of citrus fruits of South Africa and Egypt as well as by other structural problems of the sector itself. In view of these circumstances, they have requested from the Commission an impact study of the trade agreements signed with these third countries, a preliminary analysis for which Mercosur will soon be signed, as well as reciprocity in the conditions of imports. Along with this, they have put the accent on the immediate threat posed by two serious foreign pests – the ‘black spot’ (CBS) and the ‘false moth’ (Thaumatotibia lecotreta) and Citrus greening (HLB, whose insect vector is already in Portugal and Galicia) that are quarantined for the EU and that are often found in European port controls on imported consignments, for which “extraordinary and urgent” measures have been required to prevent their introduction into Mediterranean citrus areas.
The meeting has served to advance the documentation required so that, at the end of the next off-season, a report can be prepared with data from the last four seasons, in order to analyse the possibility of activating the safeguard clause of the agreement with the Community of South African States. Likewise, mention has been made of the need for the European Executive to increase the guarantees to enforce those principles of reciprocity that, on paper, are included in such treaties with non-EU countries such as South Africa, Egypt or Turkey or in other futures, such as the one that will soon be agreed with Mercosur, that the EC is negotiating without transparency and that they could entail new tariff concessions in favour of the Brazilian orange juice. “Oranges or tangerines or juice from third countries must comply with the same requirements that have been established for Community products because this is the only way to extend the European production model and particularly its requirements in terms of protecting the health of consumers and the environment,” said the president of Intercitrus, Manuel Arrufat.
Likewise, there has been progress on non-commercial issues related to the survival of the sector: the need to tighten the conditions to prevent the entry of serious pests and foreign diseases. Specifically, it has been mentioned the “worrying” situation that is being experienced, despite the specific regulation applied to imports from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and South Africa, with the ‘black spot’ that accumulates a record number of interceptions with this pathogen. Given the fact that this fungus is capable of adapting to the Mediterranean climate, Hogan has been asked to consider the possibility of a precautionary border closure from a certain level of interceptions (5), as previously provided for in European regulations (although never got to apply). As for the false moth (Thaumatotibioa leucotreta), the members of Intercitrus have criticized the fact that the EC has allowed third countries themselves to evaluate whether their treatments are as effective as cold treatment, which is the only effective internationally recognised solution. These measures, on the other hand, have the unanimous support of the European Citrus Contact Group made up of representatives of the producing countries of Portugal, France, Italy and Spain, as was recently agreed at a meeting held in Corsica.
After several years of inactivity and before the seriousness of the crisis, the Spanish organisation of Orange and Mandarin has been reactivated, has been working for a few months now and trusts that in the short / medium term it can request in time and form the CE the co-financing of promotion programs to encourage consumption. Hogan, who has taken note of the demands of the sector, has committed to streamline and prioritize these projects. At the meeting, representatives of ASAJA, COAG, UPA, Agri-Food Cooperatives of Spain as well as the Citrus Management Committee (CGC) attended the meeting.