Bittersweet victory for Spanish citrus growers. The European Commission has rectified the ‘planton’ of Friday in the Committee for Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCoPAFF), which raised unanimous indignation among producers and forced the Minister of Agriculture Luis Planas to meet on the same Monday – with character emergency – with the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides. Specifically, it definitively approved the imposition of cold treatment on oranges imported from third countries with the presence of the ‘False Moth’ (or ‘Thaumatotibia leucotreta’). Above all, South Africa and Zimbabwe. However, mandarins and grapefruit were excluded from this requirement.

The decision of the SCoPAFF will be processed by the urgent route, so that it enters into force at the end of June.

The modification implies a transitory regime for the remainder of this campaign, for which a pre-cooling of the oranges will be demanded at 5 degrees at origin and a treatment in transit (during the journey) of between -1 and 2 degrees for 25 days. For next year, two options will be considered: a cold treatment of between -1 and 0 degrees for 16 days and another of between -1 and 2 degrees for 20 days. In both cases, operators will also be required to pre-cool at 0 and 2 degrees, respectively.

From the Spanish Citrus Interprofessional (Intercitrus) they have valued what happened as “a historic step in favor of plant health in European agriculture as a whole” and have highlighted the “intense political efforts” developed in recent days. Especially, Planas’ meeting with Kyriakides and the minister’s speech at the European Council of Agriculture Ministers on Tuesday. At Intercitrus they do not hesitate to speak of “interests outside the phytosanitary issue, the sector and Europe itself”. In this sense, Ava-Asaja sources have pointed out the income left by these imports in ports such as Rotterdam (Holland) and added that ¬ęprotectionist measures are not being requested and that Spain is forced to treat cold if it wants export citrus to this country: We are not asking South Africa for anything extraordinary.

From Cooperativas – Agroalimentarias, the president of its citrus working group, has branded a “historic step” that they have taken in Brussels this Wednesday but they have warned that the plague of the ‘False Moth’ also “could attack multiple species (not only orange trees, not even just citrus) and against which there would be no possibility of eradication.

It should be remembered that the ‘Thaumatotibia leucotreta’ or orange tree moth has been included since 2017 in the list of quarantine pests of the European Union. This forces operators and member countries to adopt strict prevention and control measures. According to a report by the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission published at the end of 2021, the so-called orange tree moth would be the third pest with the greatest global impact on this type of crop. In Europe alone, losses amounting to 1,200 million euros are estimated in terms of production for European agriculture and the destruction of nearly 27,000 direct jobs. In addition to thousands of indirect jobs in the industry (handlers, transport, storage…).