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Europe closing its agriculture market

Staff writer |
U.S. pear shipments to Europe declined and could easily fall to zero. South Africa and Thailand are vistims of the new EU regulations.

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Increasing competition from European pear growers had been cutting into the market share for American pear growers, with U.S. pear shipments to Europe dropping 27 percent from the previous year to 69,000 boxes. But that minimum residue regulations regarding diphenylamine, a widely-used chemical in the U.S., could effectively end their pear shipments to Europe.

At the same time, the European Union had postponed making a decision about whether South Africa had done enough to mitigate the spreading of a fungal disease called Citrus Black Spot.

The European Commission’s Directorate for Health and Consumers (DG Sanco) postponed the decision until its next meeting on May 26 and 27 that would decide if South Africa could keep its multi billion-rand European citrus market.

A statement from DG Sanco said that no agreement could be reached on mitigation measures for South African citrus fruit in Thursday’s standing committee on plant health. "The matter has been postponed for further discussion at the next meeting taking place on May 26 and 27."

South Africa is the world’s second-largest exporter of citrus fruit, such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit. The industry generates about $1.4bn of foreign exchange through exports.

Asian producers are not spared, too. Thailand has a lot of small scale producers for exotics like okra, lemongrass, asparagus and baby corn which are the main products for export to EU.

According to a Thai exporter, there were more items, but had to be reduced as a consequence of the EU’s introduction of stricter import regulations, including EU 669/2009, which requires samples of 10 to 20% of the shipments.

"Although we also work with small retailers and Asia shops, our focus is on supermarkets, where the conditions imposed to trade with such small exotic products, considering all the certification and lab costs involved, become a real obstacle," says the exporter.

If the volume ordered is small, for instance 50 kg per week, and one in every five or ten shipments needs to be sampled, lab costs skyrocket, pushing prices well above profitable levels.

There was also the issue of the EU’s five strike rule, by which country-wide bans may be applied.

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