EU requires cold treatment for citrus imports

According to a new EU legislation, a mandatory cold treatment will be required for citrus fruits imported from non-EU countries.

The EU has introduced new legislation to amend plant health rules covering False Codling Moth (FCM, Thaumatotibia leucotreta), a moth whose polyphagous larvae can ravage a multitude of crops. [1] According to the new amended legislation, a mandatory cold treatment of 0°C to -1°C for at least 16 days is required for “Citrus sinensis Pers.” fruits exported from countries of the African continent, Cape Verde, Saint Helena, Madagascar, La Reunion, Mauritius and Israel for which the origin from an area free from T. leucotreta in accordance with relevant International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) cannot be guaranteed.


In 2019, South Africa was the second largest exporter of citrus fruit globally after Spain, with respectively 2,09 and 4.04 billion tonnes according to FAO data. [2] Europe is the largest market for South African citrus fruit exports, accounting for over 40 % of total exports in 2020. [3] According to The Citrus Growers Association of Southern Africa (CGA), the new cold treatment requirement will have a deleterious impact on the citrus trade between Europe and South Africa. In 2020, industry estimated that it cost South Africa almost R4 Billion (USD 253 million) in additional phytosanitary measures to comply with the Citrus Black Spot (CBS) and False Coddling Moth (FCM) requirements in the EU market. [3]

The CGA fears that a new cold treatment requirement would prevent the import of organic and non-chemically treated oranges, as well as several important cultivars that do not tolerate this temperature. The CGA argues that other available time-temperature protocols, enshrined in the EU FCM risk management system and in the draft recognised IPPC ISMP standards have proven similar efficacy as the protocol that the EU intends to impose. [4]


According to a review article, most existing stand-alone cold treatment schedules for T. leucotreta in export citrus from South Africa were based on research initially concluding the need for 22 days at a sub-zero temperature. [5] Subsequent studies then demonstrated that the following treatment schedules were effective against T. leucotreta in fruit: 16 days at or below −0.1 °C, 18 days at or below −0.3 °C, 20 days at or below −0.3 °C and 19 days at or below 1.2 °C. The latter treatments were adopted as internationally accepted cold treatments and are part of annexes of the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) on Phytosanitary treatments of regulated pests (ISPM 28).


The authors of the review article suggest that higher temperatures than those tested to date, may be used for stand-alone disinfestation treatments, albeit for longer durations.

The benefit would be reduced chilling injury and thus inclusion of cultivars that would normally be considered too chilling injury sensitive for a stand-alone cold disinfestation treatment. Combination treatments, such as those using fumigation or irradiation followed by a less severe (temperature and duration) cold treatment than would be used as a stand-alone treatment, have only been experimentally investigated but not yet employed in commercial practice.




[1]  Amendments to EU plant health rules for False Codling Moth.

[2]  FAO. 2021. Citrus Fruit Statistical Compendium 2020. Rome.

[3] USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. South Africa: Citrus Annual. December 22, 2021. Report SF2021-0068.

[4]  Mandatory citrus cold treatment would be disastrous and ill-considered, says CGA.

[5]  Moore, S., & Manrakhan, A. (2022). Postharvest Disinfestation Treatments for False Codling Moth and Fruit Flies in Citrus from South Africa. Horticulturae, 8(3), 221.


Image source: Orange Industry in Western Cape, South Africa