EXPORTS of Eastern Cape oranges to the European Union (EU) have been stopped by the Department of Agriculture after a fifth interception by the EU of oranges found to be infected with citrus black spot (CBS).
Citrus Growers Association of South Africa industry affairs manager Paul Hardman said the decision to stop orange exports from certain regions was made last week in conjunction with the South African citrus industry.
The decision was taken to reduce the chances of CBS infected oranges making it on to the European markets.
The citrus season, which ends in mid-October, was marked by regular inspections on farms and warehouses, following talk in June of the EU considering banning citrus exports from SA.
The increased monitoring of fruit coming from South Africa led to a fifth interception of oranges with CBS on August 23 in Europe.
Hardman said the Western and Northern Cape were the only production regions not affected by CBS and exports to the EU were still allowed. "We foresee an improvement in the control of interceptions from next year with the implementation of risk management steps. Exports are winding down and we will be exporting the remainder of the oranges – about five million cartons – to other markets such as the Middle East and Russia," Hardman said.
Sundays River Citrus Company managing director Ken Nieuwenhuizen said the volumes of lemons this season were down but overall good prices were received for oranges, with a shortage of oranges experienced in Europe because of CBS monitoring.
"We are over the worst. The stricter monitoring meant we had to reshuffle and divert exports. It was costly to divert the shipments and we are in discussions to better manage the situation next season.
"It is important to note that interceptions also took place on oranges with CBS from Argentina," Nieuwenhuizen said.
Patensie Citrus managing director Gerhard Uys said the company was not really affected by the voluntary ban since the firm's last consignment had been sent off to reach the European market by October 15.
"The ban is a good move but it could have been done sooner. Next year the safety measures may even be stricter but we will be better prepared as an industry."
CBS is a fungus found on the peel of fruit, and is not a food safety issue.