The European Union gave the go-ahead yesterday for cold treatment of citrus imported into member countries from places like South Africa or Zimbabwe. The objective is to avoid the risk of entry of the false moth plague. The proposal was based on the initiative of the Spanish Government and had the support of national agricultural organizations. The same proposal had been debated last week, but met with resistance from some community partners.
With the new measures, approved by the Permanent Committee for Food, Animal Feed and Plants of the Community Executive (SCoPAFF), imports of citrus fruits, peppers, peaches and pomegranates, as a spokesman explained yesterday, will be subject to control. It is, in this way, a step forward in pursuit of food safety and plant health, although it is still ahead for the European Commission to adopt the measure. Its entry into force will take place three days after the publication of the regulation in the Official Journal of the EU and it will begin to apply twenty days later.
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, yesterday celebrated the "great step" taken in this regard. "It is very important from the point of view of the application of the new regulations on plant health and, especially, for a sector as important for Spain as the citrus sector," he added.
The issue had been pending for some time, since both Spain and other producing countries had demanded a community regulation that would promote cold treatment to protect citrus fruits that arrived from other countries outside the European Union. "The false moth poses a threat to our crops," the minister had stressed on numerous occasions.
After last week's unsuccessful debate, agricultural organizations had shown their discontent and surprise. The Andalusian delegation of the Coordinator of Farmers and Ranchers Organizations (COAG) accused Brussels of "favoring the speculative movements of large multinationals, as well as the particular interests of certain countries", specifically targeting the "commercial interests of Germany and Netherlands".
Andrés Góngora, state manager of the COAG fruit and vegetable sector, assured after the approval "distrust" the control, which corresponds to the states themselves, for which he asked that the Commission be in charge of ensuring its compliance in all ports.
The resolution would have been approved last week in the European Commission, but it did not obtain enough support from the members of the permanent committee. Spain is a leading country in terms of citrus exports.