CITRUS growers face a R10m knock after suspending organic lemon exports to the European Union (EU) following the discovery of citrus black spot in three consignments. This comes in the same week in which a team of local growers and agricultural experts are to travel to Europe to shed light on how the country could improve its fungus risk management programme. There are fears the suspension of organic lemon exports could further jeopardise the R10bn industry. The South African Citrus Growers Association said on Thursday the decision to suspend exports to the EU was taken after the bloc notified the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries about the three consignments. The industry’s special envoy to the EU, Deon Joubert, said ring-fencing the commodity and removing any possible risk was a tough call. “The … organic lemon growers (will) probably lose about R10m. It’s quite a loss for them. “We are, however, proud of them because the interception was from only one grower but all growers voluntarily agreed to stop trading to the EU.” Organic lemons, which are highly priced, made up a very small portion of citrus production. The industry is not measured on the basis of individual growers but as a collective — something that Mr Joubert considers unfortunate. Black spot causes blemishes on a fruit’s peel. The EU is one of the country’s biggest produce export markets. This year SA said it would avoid citrus shipments through Spanish ports to avert a possible ban after authorities there refused producers permission to inspect fungus-testing facilities. “Ultimately, the underlying issue with citrus black spot is that, despite the substantial efforts made by the South African citrus industry as a whole, no agreement has been reached with the EU since 1992 on the risk of citrus black spot being transmitted by fruit to citrus orchards in the EU,” Mr Joubert said.
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