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EU could squeeze SA orange exports by one-fifth – growers

South Africa's electricity shortages -- which have improved in recent weeks -- will only add to the exporters' woes.

New European Union health safety requirements on citrus exports from South Africa could reduce by up to 20 percent the volume of oranges sold to the bloc by the country, growers warned Wednesday.

The rules, which came into effect in January, require South African farmers to apply ultra-cold treatment to all Europe-bound oranges and keep the fruits at temperatures of two degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit) or lower for up to 25 days.

False codling moth

The restrictions aim to prevent the potential spread of the false codling moth, a pest native to sub-Saharan Africa that feeds on fruits including oranges.

“We estimate that of the normal amount we would send to the EU, that we would probably send maybe 15 or 20 percent less oranges to the EU this year, simply because we can’t treat and cool the volume of fruit that’s needed,” Citrus Growers’ Association CEO Justin Chadwick told AFP.

If the quantity of oranges South Africa typically exports to the EU annually were cut by a fifth — around 80,800 tonnes — it would mean European supermarkets needing to make up a shortfall of 5.4 million 15 kilogram boxes.

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“Basically, South Africa just doesn’t have the infrastructure available to cool the volumes of oranges that we send to the EU,” explained Chadwick.

South Africa’s electricity shortages — which have improved in recent weeks — will only add to the exporters’ woes.

With an industry valued at almost $2 billion, Africa’s most industrialised economy is ranked behind Spain as the world’s second largest exporter of fresh citrus.

Biggest market for oranges

The EU is its biggest market for oranges.

“We do not compete with Spain, Italy and Greece — and if it was not for South Africa, the EU consumers would not have oranges during their summer,” said Chadwick.

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In July last year South Africa filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) arguing the EU requirements were “not based on science” and were “discriminatory”.

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