STC Number - 356

EU phytosanitary measures on citrus black spot

Maintained by: European Union
Raised by: South Africa
Supported by: Argentina; Brazil; Zambia
First date raised: June 2013 G/SPS/R/71, paras. 4.15-4.17
Dates subsequently raised: March 2014 (G/SPS/R/74, paras. 3.31 - 3.32)
October 2014 (G/SPS/R/76, paras. 3.16 - 3.17 )
July 2015 (G/SPS/R/79, paras. 3.67 - 3.69)
October 2015 (G/SPS/R/81, paras. 3.72-3.74)
Number of times subsequently raised: 4
Relevant documents: G/SPS/GEN/26, G/SPS/N/EEC/46, G/SPS/N/EEC/47
Products covered:
Primary subject keyword: Plant Health
Keywords: Plant health; Risk assessment; Sufficiency of scientific evidence
Status: Not reported
Solution:
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In June 2013, South Africa raised concerns regarding the EU restrictive import measures on South African citrus exports infested with citrus black spot. This issue had been on-going since 1992. During the July 1997 SPS Committee meeting, South Africa had circulated a statement, G/SPS/GEN/26, in regard to the EU notifications of modifications of phytosanitary measures on citrus black spot (G/SPS/N/EEC/46 and G/SPS/N/EEC/47). At that time, South Africa contended that the EU measures were not scientifically justified and lacked a technical basis, as infested fruit did not pose a significant pest risk. Unfortunately the issue remained unresolved. The EU measures not only lacked scientific basis, but had also had an excessively negative effect on trade and, as such, were in contravention of the SPS Agreement. As previously noted in the SPS Committee, this issue had been raised in the context of the IPPC dispute settlement procedure, and bilateral talks were set to continue on this matter. South Africa was still waiting for the results of an EU pest-risk analysis regarding Guignardia citicarpa that was supposed to have been completed in 2011. South Africa urged the European Union to finish its pest risk analysis and to implement measures that had a scientific basis.
Argentina supported South Africa's position, as it was also a large exporter of citrus to the European Union. Argentina urged the European Union to complete its risk analysis swiftly and to put in place measures that were scientifically-based and not unduly restrictive of trade.
The European Union confirmed that this matter was the subject of the IPPC's first dispute settlement procedure and noted that its territory was free from citrus black spot, hence the restrictions in place reflected the EU desire to maintain this freedom. Detections of citrus black spot on South African fruit sent to the European Union had been on the rise therefore the European Union decided that after a certain number of interceptions action may be taken. The European Union assured South Africa of close cooperation before any such decision was made. The European Union underlined that the European Food Safety Authority was assessing whether citrus fruit itself could transmit citrus black spot disease. The draft pest-risk analysis should be available in July 2013, and would be open to public consultation. The European Union hoped that the discussions, both bilaterally and at the IPPC, and the expected forthcoming scientific information, would result in a solution that was agreeable to all involved.

In March 2014, South Africa reiterated its concerns over the restrictive requirements regarding citrus fruit imports by the European Union. In December 2013, the European Union published an emergency measure on further restrictions to prevent the introduction of the citrus black spot pathogen into EU territory. The pest risk analysis of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on citrus black spot was made available in February 2014. South Africa reviewed its risk management practices related to citrus black spot on an annual basis and significant improvements had been made, as documented to the European Union. South Africa maintained that the EU measures were more stringent than technically justified, and disproportionate in light of the area of the European Union that could possibly be endangered by citrus black spot.
The European Union confirmed that EFSA carried out a pest risk analysis on citrus black spot in February 2014. As part of the process, a public consultation with scientific experts was held and all the resulting comments were made public. EFSA's assessment confirmed that citrus black spot presented a high risk to the European Union as environmental conditions in some parts of the European Union were favourable for the introduction, establishment and spread of the disease via the import of citrus fruit. It was also underlined that while EU prevention measures were sufficient, they should be reinforced in some cases. Since the process of revising its general import requirements in respect of citrus black spot would take time, the European Union was considering interim measures for the import of citrus fruit from South Africa due to the number of non-compliant consignments during the previous season. The European Union acknowledged the efforts being made by South Africa to ensure a safer trade in citrus fruits.

At the October 2014 Committee meeting, South Africa recalled that it had previously raised concerns over restrictive EU requirements for citrus fruit. Despite comments submitted by South Africa's as well as by an international group of scientific experts, the European Food Safety Authority had released its final risk assessment on citrus black spot in February 2014, maintaining its opinion that commercial citrus fruit from areas where citrus black spot was present presented a risk to the European Union. Based on this conclusion, the European Commission Standing Committee on Plant Health had decided on additional import measures for citrus fruit from South Africa, which had taken effect in July 2014. In South Africa's opinion, these significantly more stringent measures were unjustified restrictions on trade, and were disproportionate to any possible risk to the European Union. The measures implied additional costs and had severe negative influence on South Africa's citrus industry. South Africa had voluntarily suspended exports from certain areas for the rest of 2014, and had asked the secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) to establish an expert committee in line with Article XIII of the IPPC to provide an independent science-based opinion. South Africa had been engaging with the European Union for 22 years without a successful outcome. South Africa would again review its citrus black spot risk management system for the 2015 export season, and would continue to strengthen its citrus industry. South Africa upheld its science-based opinion that EU phytosanitary import requirements in respect of citrus black spot for fresh consumption fruit were more stringent than technically justifiable.
The European Union stressed that the measures were in place to prevent the entry of citrus black spot, since there had been an increasing number of interceptions in 2014. The European Union was currently free from citrus black spot, and the disease would have severe socio-economic implications if imported. The European Food Safety Authority had established a scientific panel and was in the process of organizing a dialogue. The European Union acknowledged South Africa's efforts to remedy the situation and expressed its willingness to comply with its responsibilities under the IPPC dispute resolution process, but was also looking forward to a bilateral dialogue with officials from South Africa.

In July 2015, South Africa reiterated its concerns on EU restrictive import requirements regarding citrus fruit. EU measures on citrus black spot (CBS) implemented since 2014, were significantly more stringent than previous ones, lacked a scientific basis, implied additional costs and had severe negative influence on South Africa's citrus industry. South Africa recalled that it had asked the IPPC secretariat to establish an expert committee in line with Article XIII of the IPPC to provide an independent science-based opinion. South Africa urged the IPPC to expedite the process.
The European Union stressed that the measures were in place to prevent the entry of CBS to EU territory. The strengthening of the requirements was the result of the risk assessment conducted by EFSA in February 2014 and the recurring number of interceptions. The European Union noted that there had been 28 interceptions in 2014 and four in 2015. Given the circumstances, the European Union was maintaining its import requirements and would consider taking further measures. The European Union acknowledged South Africa's efforts to remedy the situation, however the efforts has not yet resulted in a reduction of imports interceptions. The European Union welcomed bilateral discussion between the technical bodies of both countries to resolve the matter. With regard to the work in IPPC, the European Union indicated that it would provide its comments on the draft terms of reference proposed by the IPPC secretariat.
The IPPC noted that this was the first formal dispute under the IPPC, and would serve as a learning experience. The IPPC reiterated was facing significant difficulties in finding neutral scientific experts on CBS. The IPPC had expanded its search by including experts in the area of risk assessment as it is related to CBS. The IPPC encouraged Members to come forward with names of experts, and explained that the terms of reference of the panel were subject to the negotiation between the parties.

In October 2015, South Africa reiterated its concerns regarding restrictive EU import requirements on citrus fruit. EU measures on citrus black spot (CBS), implemented since 2014, were significantly more stringent than previous ones, lacked a scientific basis, implied additional costs and had severe negative influence on South Africa's citrus industry. South Africa recalled that it had asked the IPPC secretariat to establish an expert committee in line with Article XIII of the IPPC to provide an independent science-based opinion. South Africa urged the IPPC to expedite the process.
Brazil and Zambia shared South Africa's concern, and Brazil offered support to help expedite the IPPC process so that it could be concluded with the necessary urgency.
The European Union stressed that the measures were in place to prevent the entry of CBS to EU territory. The strengthening of the requirements was the result of the risk assessment conducted by EFSA in February 2014 and the recurring number of interceptions. The European Union noted that there had been 28 interceptions in 2014 and nine in 2015. Given the circumstances, the European Union was maintaining its import requirements and would consider taking further measures. The European Union acknowledged South Africa's efforts to remedy the situation, however the efforts had not yet resulted in a sufficient reduction of interceptions. The European Union welcomed bilateral discussion between the technical bodies to resolve the matter. With regard to the work in IPPC, the European Union highlighted the importance of the terms of reference in this first ever IPPC procedure, so as to lay down a solid and legally sound foundation not only for the current dispute but also for the IPPC Dispute Settlement Procedure in general. Furthermore, the European Union signalled its being fully committed to supporting the IPPC process and that it would provide its comments on the draft terms of reference.