Brussels - The European Commission has proposed dropping a ban on South African citrus imports but said it could be re-imposed if shipments contain a fungal disease, according to a document obtained by Reuters.

The European Union, which buys 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) of South African citrus exports every year, banned mainly oranges, lemons, and tangerines from South Africa late last year because of a fungal disease found in shipments.

EU member states will vote on whether to extend that ban on Wednesday, a measure that would block about 600,000 tonnes of citrus fruit for the May-October season.

The Commission, which coordinates trade policy for the 28-member bloc, says such a step is not necessary and recommends only considering a ban if the black spot disease is found in five different shipments from South Africa.

“In case of recurring interceptions due to failing monitoring and certification procedures within the same year, the Commission will review this decision before the sixth interception has been notified,” said the document, which has been prepared for EU governments.

South Africa supplies about a third of the European Union's total citrus imports and is the main source of oranges for the juice drunk by consumers in Britain, Germany and France during Europe's summer. - Reuters