The head of EU agricultural organization Copa Cogeca is calling for more to be done to combat the dangers of citrus black spot disease spreading into Europe from South Africa, saying “we cannot take the risk”.
Copa Cogeca general secretary Pekka Pesonen
General secretary Pekka Pesonen has written to the European Commission stressing that recommendations made by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) warn the Commission should not underestimate the high risk of contamination in the continent’s groves via imports.
“Black spot is a disease that is not present in Europe and its presence could have disastrous consequences on the citrus sector in producer countries,” Pesonen says in a release.
“The EU citrus fruit sector is crucial both from an economic and social point of view. It provides the EU with high quality produce, at the same time as ensuring employment for millions of people in EU rural areas, both upstream and downstream, especially in southern countries.
“We cannot take the risk of importing the disease. The impact would be catastrophic for EU citrus fruit producers, particularly as southern countries are already being badly hit by the severe economic crisis.”
Pesonen’s warning comes just as the new import season for citrus from South Africa begins and includes a call for the EU to establish greater phytosanitary controls at ports.
“Given the South African sector’s attitude and the experience gained in 2013 and 2014 when 35 and 28 interceptions respectively were recorded, the EU should take new measures and enforce its Implementing Decision from 2nd July 2014, to establish greater phytosanitary controls at ports of entry and especially where the main imports come into the EU – the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
“An article should be set up in EU law to enable the EU to decide automatically to shut its border on a precautionary basis to imports when there is a high risk.
“This is a European phytosanitary problem, which requires a strong protection strategy that is coordinated from Brussels.”