EU, U.S. announce trade breakthrough for citrus producers

U.S. groves no longer have to be surveyed for citrus canker, which will ease entry of U.S. citrus into lucrative EU market.

The European Union has amended its requirements for imports of U.S. citrus, according to a statement from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and acting U.S. Trade Representative Stephen Vaughn.  Specifically, the EU has dropped its requirement that U.S. groves be surveyed for citrus canker, which will ease the entry of U.S. citrus into the EU market and saves growers millions of dollars in production costs.

Florida producers grow 25,000 acres of grapefruit, 70% of which are intended for shipment to the EU market, according to industry estimates. The citrus exports are expected to increase by 25%, or about $15 million, during the first year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative have worked continuously with EU officials over the last 10 years to ensure that the EU’s plant health requirements for citrus are based on scientifically established risks.

The new EU directive requires countries where citrus canker has been detected to have a disease management program and to ensure that exported fruits have no symptoms. The EU’s change means the trade bloc is satisfied with APHIS’s disease management program. As a result, grove surveys are no longer required, saving U.S. producers an estimated $5.6 million per year.

“At USDA, everything we do is grounded in sound science, so it is good to see that the EU has seen that our disease management program protects our citrus products,” Perdue said.  “When we rely on science, it levels the playing field for everyone, and when the playing field is level, American agriculture will win.”

Vaughn added, “The EU maintains a number of unwarranted sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) barriers on U.S. agricultural exports, and we have long called on the EU to base its SPS measures on science. Today’s action removes a long-standing and unfair barrier and will help return U.S. citrus exports to the EU to the levels we had a decade ago.”

Implementation of the new directive is expected in time for Florida’s grapefruit export season in mid-November.

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