Citrus farmers need decisive leadership from the President

Issued by Noko Masipa MP – DA Member on the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development
20 Jul 2022 in News

Please find attached soundbite by Noko Masipa MP.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s response to the DA’s request for intervention in the potential looming crisis of South African citrus exporters and farmers was without substance or assurance.

The President’s acknowledgment of our letter contained no clarification of the specific actions that he is taking or has taken. While he indicated that the citrus industry is dealing with this matter and that they have already raised it directly with the President, the DA’s interactions with them show an industry that is desperate for government support and intervention.

The President’s brief after a meeting with European Union Council President, Charles Michel, did not give citrus farmers and exporters a sense of assurance that the new regulations shall either be suspended or more time shall be given to citrus export agents to comply – 23 days are unfair and irrational. South African citrus farmers and exporter agents take phytosanitary very seriously. South Africa has far lower interception rates of false codling moth (FCM) than other countries, which are excluded from the new regulations that require our citrus to undergo extreme cold treatment to mitigate and circumvent FCM contamination.

It is completely unacceptable that President Cyril Ramaphosa referred the matter to Ministers without specifying which Ministers. Furthermore, the President failed to set a deadline for the matter to be resolved. The President cannot delegate difficult conversations.

Since 2014, the citrus industry grew from R14 billion to R30 billion. This represents a growth from 110 million cartons to 160 million cartons of which every 10 million cartons provide 10 000 jobs. The industry has also over the last 10 years provided 600 bursaries of which 85% was employed in the industry. This is an industry worth fighting for and protecting.

South Africa’s market is not big enough to consume all citrus produced in the country, and there are no alternative markets to export the fruits to. This impasse has devastating impact on jobs, farmers’ cash flow, business continuity, and livelihoods of rural communities who rely heavily on citrus income.

The DA call on President Ramaphosa to take the lead and engage the President of the European Union instead of delegating to the shameful Ministers who continue to fail this country’s agriculture. The DA expects the President to address sticking points and ensure that citrus exporters are able to fulfil their export obligations.