Tensions seem to always be high in the agricultural sector these days. South African chickens are fighting for preference over Brazilian Chickens. The EFF wants to seize farms without compensation- the Agricultural minister is promising to protect farmers from the EFF and warning farmers not to pick up guns against the EFF if occupation seems to be looming. And now the European Union doesn’t want our oranges.
South Africa’s woes with the EU are not going anywhere, anytime soon. Europe is threatening to ban South African imports of oranges, because they don’t want black spots on their fruit. Laugh if you must. South African oranges apparently have a tendency of being blighted by a fungus called “Citrus black spot.” The spots in question do not affect the taste of the produce or cause any health concerns… the oranges just don’t look pretty enough. The Europeans have threatened to stop imports if five or more intercept of the dreaded black spot occur.
Citrus exports are big business for the country, being the second largest citrus exporter in the world, 45% of which makes its way to the EU. The response from the South Africans is a shrug and in keeping with chilly tone between the two partners or late, “We aren’t going to put all our eggs in one basket.” Potential consumers include other BRICS members, China and India. Though the agricultural Minister has not been seen trying to alienate the Europeans and has said that without the EU market the Citrus industry in South Africa will suffer instability.
One might wonder if this new development in the citrus industry might have something to do with tensions between the EU and South Africa over recent cancellations of trade agreements, that have affected the levels of foreign direct investment in the country. No one wants to admit that maybe the EU has us by the scruff of the neck, because despite the brave front, new markets are not developed in the twinkling of an eye. While citrus industry commentators claim that the current situation has been brewing for over 15 years, one has to speculate on why it has boiled over now.
The South African economy cannot afford to lose positions in current markets, in the hopes that other markets will not hold it to the same standards that the European markets do. Granted, the five-strikes-and-you’re-out rule that the EU has set on citrus imports is high handed. Justin Chadwick, the CEO of the Citrus Growers Association of South Africa thinks the threat is extreme, considering that the best interception score the country has ever had is 12 and 5 seems all but impossible to reach, in recent years 30 has been the average.
Apart from losing the European citrus market, failure to immediately find another market will put over 100 000 jobs in the citrus industry in South Africa at risk. With one in four South Africans being unemployed, this will add more weights to the camel’s back. Economists can only hope that the ministry of Agriculture is already working on developing new markets, either that or mending relations with the EU.
The economy cannot take any more chaos or bad news, the road to recovery is turning into a slippery slope and South Africa cannot afford to let go of one rope in the hopes that another one will miraculously appear.