Citrus black spot: Here’s how it’s hurting farmers’ incomes
The European Union’s (EU) zero-tolerance approach to citrus black spot (CBS) has forced South African citrus growers who export Valencia oranges to EU countries. EU to stop exports from areas of Mzansi that are affected by this disease.
This follows ten CBS Notifications of Non-Compliance (NONCs) on SA Citrus that were detected last season.
To better understand CBS and the impact of EU restrictions on the South African citrus industry, Food For Mzansi spoke with Providence Moyo, plant pathologist at Citrus Research International.
What is citrus black spot?
Moyo describes CBS as a fungal disease found on citrus fruits that infects leaves and fruit. Symptoms are usually visible only on mature fruit as dark superficial spots. These spots, however, do not lead to fruit rot.
Additionally, black spot does not cause crop loss under South African conditions, but in terms of marketing it can cause downgrading of fruit quality grading, says Moyo.
“A number of these external imperfections on citrus fruits make them cosmetically unsuitable for fresh market or juice production, resulting in a much lower revenue per tonne produced.”
The fungus affects citrus plants in major citrus producing countries with hot, humid and humid climates with summer rainfall.
“During hot, humid weather, fruits can become infected when they are less than five months old, but these infections remain latent and do not form black spots until the fruits ripen.”
The most effective strategy for controlling black spot is a fungicide application during fruit sensitivity, she says.
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Huge economic losses
As seen with South Africa recently, CBS has a significant economic impact on the citrus industry. However, Moyo warns that this is not due to the dark spots on the bark and its effect on fruit marketing. “But rather because the fungus responsible for citrus black spot is considered a quarantine pest in the European Union. Therefore, the European Union has imposed zero tolerance for fruit with black spot lesions.
The presence of a single black spot lesion on a single fruit can result in the rejection of an entire shipment of fruit with huge economic losses, she explains.
Moyo adds that it is extremely expensive to control citrus black spot to the levels required for zero tolerance in the European Union market.
“These growers will have to follow strict spraying programs. These also often have a negative impact on integrated pest management programs aimed at a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way of controlling pests in citrus production.
Interception at the orchard level
Meanwhile, Khaya Katoo, an Eastern Cape citrus exporter, says CBS has serious financial implications for farmers, which could lead to job losses and the closure of farming businesses.
“For example, to get an export certificate to the European market, you have to spray your trees from mid-September, six times a year, for them to be considered safe, which could be extremely costly for farmers,” he said. out.
Farmers wishing to export to this market must adhere to strict regulations to survive.
“We had an interception at the orchard level, so our fruit had to be diverted to other markets that pay less than the European Union. We were lucky because if the interception had happened in the EU we would have been banned for next season.
Katoo says he is grateful that the problem was detected by Ministry of Agriculture officials during inspections of their farm. Others, however, were not so lucky.
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