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  • EU set to tighten inspections for False Codling Moth for all shipments from Ethiopia, Kenya

European lawmakers are poised to introduce more stringent inspection procedures for flowers imported into the EU from Ethiopia in a bid to fight a growing moth infestation.
The False Codling Moth (Thaumatotibia leucotreta) is thought to be native to Sub-Saharan Africa, and its larvae especially are pests that feed on cotton, macadamia nuts, and citrus fruits.

The EU Parliament has grown increasingly wary of the threat posed by the moth, with some estimates claiming over a quarter of Europe’s citrus yields are at risk. A shipment of larvae-infested pomegranates from Morocco was recently seized at the Spanish border.
The growing fears have led lawmakers to propose that a minimum of 25 percent of any and all horticultural shipments to the EU be subject to physical inspections for Codling Moth infestation.

The rule would apply to fresh cut flowers making their way to Europe from Ethiopia. These shipments are currently subject to a five percent minimum for physical inspections. Kenyan flowers would also be subject to the inspections, up from a 10 percent inspection quota.
The decision from EU member states, the European Commission, and the EU Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF Committee) is expected to come into force sometime in May 2024.

An expert at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Horticulture Development Division shared with The Reporter fears of the effects the increased inspection frequency and larger sampling sizes will have on the timeliness of deliveries, as well as the freshness of the flowers.

The risks posed by contamination, says the expert, are daunting for exporters.

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“If [the flowers] pass the inspection, they will head to the destination. If the shipment fails, the exporter will have to recall it or dump it, bearing all costs,” said the expert, who requested anonymity. “A tighter control mechanism means a bigger chance of finding defects during the inspections. This will be catastrophic to exporters as they could possibly lose their export business.”

The expert told The Reporter the moth in question is prevalent in areas near and around vineyards, notably in the vicinity of Ziway (Batu) in the Oromia Regional State. The moth favors warm climate conditions and likes to feed on temperate fruit crops, such as grapes.
The ideal climate and feeding conditions in these areas will contribute to higher rates of infestation, according to the expert. He foresees infestations in flower farms are very likely.

Federal officials want to see USD 742 million in revenues from horticulture exports this year. However, the USD 169 million posted in the first quarter (with cut flowers accounting for close to USD 146 million) indicates the exports will likely fall short of the target.

The Netherlands is the largest buyer of Ethiopia’s fresh cut flowers, which account for the lion’s share of the country’s total horticulture export revenues. Flowers shipped to the Netherlands are typically re-exported to other European or Latin American countries.

The expert observes the new developments will likely also affect the flower business in the Netherlands. The imminent disruptions have so worried Dutch officials that a delegation of Ethiopian officials and other stakeholders recently visited the Netherlands for discussions on the topic.

The Ethiopian authorities argue the considerable differences in climate between the two continents will cut down chances of infestation, as the pest is sensitive to extreme temperature changes.

“But if it develops resistance, it won’t be good for Europe as well,” said the expert. “If it gets to Europe and develops resistance, it won’t be easy for them to control.”

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