S.Africa negotiates deal with EU to clear citrus blockage at ports

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels

GENEVA (Reuters) - South Africa has negotiated a settlement with the European Union to clear hundreds of shipping containers of citrus fruit stuck in EU ports, the South African government said on Thursday.

Shipments were disrupted after the trade bloc implemented new phytosanitary rules that led to a WTO dispute being declared in July, the first-ever WTO dispute settlement case initiated by South Africa.

The EU imposed the new measures over concerns it had with the False Codling Moth (FCM) on citrus fruit, with new measures including enhanced cold treatment for oranges and additional phytosanitary declarations for grapefruit and soft citrus.

The measures were published on June 21 and were set to come into force by June 24 when many shipments were already enroute to Europe.

"The interim measures provide that the consignments be treated at the cold treatment facilities in the EU and the department to notify other EU member states," said South Africa's department of agriculture affairs in a statement.

It added that over 2,000 containers valued at an estimated valued 500 million rand ($31 mln) were affected by this blockage.

($1 = 16.2495 rand)

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Jan Harvey and Toby Chopra)