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EU/US: OFFICIALS TO MEET IN WASHINGTON ON SPANISH CLEMENTINE BAN.

Another working group of Spanish and American officials is scheduled to gather the week after the Washington meeting, most likely in the Spanish city of Valencia, the region where most of the clementines affected by the ban are grown. Both sides say they want the ban lifted for the 2002-2003 season.Imports of Spanish clementines were suspended by the US Department of Agriculture on November 30 after live Medfly maggots were found in the fruit in stores in Louisiana, Maryland and North Carolina. The Medfly is one of the world's destructive pests, threatening more than 250 kinds of fruits, nuts and vegetables, and there are no established populations of the insect in the US. However, Spanish officials dispute the US decision, pointing out that US agricultural inspectors failed to find any Medfly pest in Spain in a visit in December. Producers claim that it is impossible for live Medfly larvae to survive in Spanish shipments, since citrus products are transported at low temperatures to kill the larvae. Spain's Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Ca[currency]ete said earlier in January that the US had no scientific evidence to uphold the ban, and that Spain might ask the European Commission to complain to the World Trade Organisation. Spanish officials also claim the USDA is coming under pressure not to embarrass Madrid during Spain's stint in the EU Presidency chair.In the meantime, the US has rejected calls for an immediate lifting of the ban. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said more time was needed to make a decision that did not depend exclusively on USDA. The USDA, which sent a team of officials to Spain in December to investigate the situation, said Medfly eradication efforts by Spain's citrus industry "lacked both consistency and direct government oversight". In addition, the Department criticised the fact that there was no punishment for failing to comply with food pest rules. "Based on this initial visit, the team was unable to conclusively determine why Spain's citrus export program failed", USDA said. "Consequently, APHIS has determined that further investigation was necessary." USDA officials insist they are working on the best way to allow Spanish clementine imports while protecting the US farming industry from a potential infestation. Some possible options include:a national Spanish agriculture programme supervising Medfly field controls;Spain monitoring medfly infestation levels through fruit cutting and inspection prior to cold treatment;Spain monitoring its citrus programme through fruit cuttings at US ports of entry;Spain improving its trace-back system for clementines grown in the nation.The European Commission has taken a back seat role in this dispute, as much of the issue is covered by a special US-Spain agreement on clementine trade. Spain is entitled to call on the Commission for support, but has not yet requested any. If, however, the issue raises broader questions about World Trade Organisation rules, then the Commission will intervene. But so far, the broader issue has been the formal US notification of the ban to the WTO under the Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) Agreement.Importers in the US had been expecting to sell some 115,000 tonnes of clementines this year at a value of USD136 million (Euro 150 million), but the ban - imposed at the peak of the export season - could cut sales in half. Exports to the US account for only about 5% of the total, with the key markets being France and Germany.More info: http://www.eisnet.be => Search / Full content => Ref: EURE;2563;508
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Publication:European Report
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Jan 23, 2002
Words:582
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