Johannesburg - South Africa’s citrus growers said implementing the European Union’s measures to prevent black-spot disease spreading to fruit from the economic bloc was expensive and will affect the local industry’s prospects.

Citrus from the country, which represents about a third of the EU’s imports, will be subject to more stringent checks such as recording chemical treatments, registering packing houses and inspections at orchards, the European Commission, the EU’s administrative arm, said in a statement on its website yesterday.

South African authorities will have to test a sample of 600 of each type of fruit for every 30 metric tons earmarked for exports, the commission said.

The industry has “gone to great lengths and excessive cost to demonstrate” its commitment to the EU’s position, the Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa said in an e-mailed statement.

“This is simply not economically sustainable nor fair as South Africa has been singled out for special treatment by the EU in this regard.”

The industry’s “long-term prognosis” is “in the balance,” it said.

While black spot is a fungal disease that results in leaf- spotting and fruit blemishes, it isn’t harmful to humans.

The fungus can survive transport and storage and could establish itself in EU areas that produce citrus, the European Food Safety Authority has said.

The EU intercepted 35 shipments from South Africa last year that contained black-spot disease, Europhyt data shows.

While the EU’s decision doesn’t legislate automatic bans after a set number of interceptions, it leaves room for “additional measures” to be imposed after five incidents of black-spot disease are found, the association said.

The “science that underlies” the risk should be resolved “once and for all,” it said.

Senzeni Zokwana, who became South Africa’s agriculture minister two days ago, should “prioritise the swift and amicable resolution of the citrus black spot dispute with the European Union,” the association said. - Bloomberg News