South Africa takes EU to WTO over citrus import rules

South Africa is taking the European Union (EU) to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to challenge its phytosanitary measures for citrus imports. 

The dispute centers around new regulations implemented in 2022 that require stricter cold treatment for South African citrus fruits.

South Africa, the world’s second-largest citrus exporter after Spain, argues these measures are “unscientific and discriminatory.”

The stricter cold treatment is intended to prevent the introduction of false codling moth, a pest found in sub-Saharan Africa, and citrus black spot, a fungal disease.

Following failed consultations with the EU, South Africa requested the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) establish adjudication panels to examine its complaints. 

While the EU initially objected, the DSB process dictates that panels will be formed at their next meeting in July 2024. 

A decision from the panels can be expected within nine months.

This marks the first time South Africa has advanced a WTO dispute beyond the consultation stage. 

The Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa joined the government ministries in the joint statement announcing the move.

The EU, the largest market for South African citrus, expressed regret over the WTO action. However, they maintain their pest control measures are justified and they will prevail in the dispute.

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