Govt slugs it out for citrus export to China and India

JOHANNESBURG: (By Steve Austen)– The government will team up with  citrus industry to help  its export to China and India by working as catalyst to forge trade links with the two BRICS nations.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson gave assurance after meeting with the Citrus Growers’ Association and AgriSA, which was dominated by citrus black spot and trade issues in Johannesburg.

“On the part of the ministry … we’ve agreed that as government, we will be assisting the citrus industry to deepen the market access in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations, especially with India and China… When we meet as BRICS Agriculture Ministers later in the year, we will discuss this further,” said Joemat-Pettersson.

South Africa is currently facing a challenge with regards to citrus exports to the European Union (EU) due to citrus black spot, a fungal disease caused by Guignardia citricarpa.

It affects citrus plants throughout subtropical climates, causing a reduction in both fruit quantity and quality.

The minister said currently, the trade regime of citrus with China was “a bit complicated”, adding that government was committed to entering negotiations with that country to ease matters.

Joemat-Pettersson said the Germans are the biggest trading partner for South Africa’s citrus in the off-season of EU producers such as Spain, Italy and Greece.

However, the minister emphasised that the broadening and strengthening of trade relations of the citrus industry with the BRCIS nations should not be seen as a replacement of the EU market.

“This is not a replacement of the EU market, but the broadening and expanding of the citrus industry to access the BRICS market as well. The EU and the United States of America remain our traditional markets,” she said.

Joemat-Pettersson said the African continent was the new export destination of the citrus industry.

“Trade on the continent has also grown significantly, with Zimbabwe being one of the top importers of our citrus.”

The minister said the meeting also focused on transformation in the industry, adding that government’s ambition was to grow the industry through market access.

The chairperson of the Citrus Growers Association, Pieter Nortje, said: “This is a great day for the citrus industry. It is wonderful that we agree and share absolute common goals with our government …”

Nortje said the citrus industry was the biggest employer of unskilled workers in the rural areas.

“We are the biggest employer of unskilled labour in the rural areas. All that we are asking for as the industry is to be assisted with trade links to access various markets as we are unable to enter into those agreements by ourselves.

“We are also excited that the Minister has pledged to help us in this regard,” he said.

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