Citrus Exporters in Zimbabwe Face Challenges Amid EU Compliance Measures

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As the main fruit harvesting season begins, Zimbabwean citrus exporters are facing increasing anxiety over declining profitability due to stringent compliance measures imposed by the European Union (EU) to access its markets.

The Citrus Growers Association of Zimbabwe (CGAZ) has highlighted that the EU has introduced rigorous regulations for imports from countries affected by citrus black spot (CBS) and false codling moth (FCM). These regulations, which affect citrus producers in Southern Africa and South America, including South Africa and Zimbabwe, require zero tolerance for these pests.

In its report, CGAZ stated: “The cost burden of this requirement is heavy on Zimbabwe, as Southern African industries presently do not have sufficient cold storage in place to meet the demand. Zimbabwe currently has no ability to cold sterilise, and this is all handled by agents in South Africa, putting additional pressure on the available facilities.”

The compliance costs for citrus growers are substantial. As Zimbabwe’s citrus industry is on the verge of growth, the country will need to invest in cold storage facilities, especially in Beira, to meet these demands in the medium and long term.

“Added to the high compliance costs, growers have to contend with a rise in electricity (especially at packing side) and water charges as well as other agro-inputs like fertiliser and chemicals, which negatively affects profitability.

“In logistics, the industry faces high costs of transport to port, shipping, and agency fees, all exacerbated by high fuel costs. We are, on average, 1,200 kilometers farther from port facilities than our biggest competitor, South Africa,” explained the CGAZ report.

Despite world juice prices being at an all-time high, growers in the northern part of the country are unable to process their fruit due to low capacity. CGAZ is advocating for the construction of additional juice factories to provide growers with an outlet for processing fruit, essential for the viability of citrus production.

Citrus black spot is a fungal pathogen that causes unsightly “black” lesions on the fruit, while FCM is a moth that lays eggs on mature citrus fruit, causing it to rot. The pupa from the eggs could potentially survive and spread to other countries where the moth is not present.

CGAZ has implemented mandatory monitoring and spraying programs and established a defined management system to counter CBS and FCM. The Plant Quarantine Services Institute (PQSI), with CGAZ’s assistance, has developed a standard operating procedure (SOP) to ensure that these mandatory systems are followed for the export of fruit to EU markets.

To ensure full compliance, all orchards are registered and monitored annually, with non-compliant players prohibited from exporting to the EU or China.

“In addition to the management system and SOPs, fruit has to be cold sterilised in transit for a minimum of 22 to 24 days. This will ensure that any possible larvae are killed before arrival in the EU or China,” added the report.

The stringent EU compliance measures present significant challenges for Zimbabwean citrus exporters, necessitating substantial investments and stringent adherence to regulations to maintain market access. – Herald