On 29 November 2020, Greek Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Emmanouil Fragkos of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“Areas such the Lemon Forest of Poros and Crete have always been renowned for producing a large amount of lemons of exceptional quality. However, massive imports, small holdings, the failure of the cooperative experiment and the inability to highlight the unique quality of Greek lemons, where the processing and integration of agri-tourism services could be bolstered, have led to the sector’s decline. For example, almost 100 000 tonnes of Greek lemons were produced in 2004. 80 000 tonnes were produced this year, while 23 000 tonnes of lemons and limes were imported from Argentina alone.
The artificial yellowing of lemons, spraying them with banned pesticides and not mentioning the country of origin on bulk lemons are all methods of manipulating consumers. Instead, Greek lemons should be promoted.
In view of this:
1. In order for quality production to recover, what unused tools are available at the level of municipalities and small producer associations?
2. Can the Commission recommend any best practices and tools that Greek lemon producers can use to develop their agricultural production, with specific lot sizes?
3. The combination of Turkey’s persistent violation of Greek rights and the introduction of much cheaper Turkish lemons — which are not properly checked for the use of inappropriate pesticides — is leading to an increase in their production vis-a-vis organic Greek lemons and is causing considerable harm to (former) Greek lemon producers. Looking at the big picture, can Greece block imports of lemons, at least from Turkey?”
On 16 February 2021, Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “With a total production of 82 000 tons (+6% compared to the average of the previous 10 years) Greece is the third biggest producer of lemons in the EU.
The Commission notes that the number of producer organisations (POs) in the fruit and vegetable (F&V) sector in Greece is low. In 2018, there were 129 POs of which only 80 had a running operational programme (OP) representing, in terms of turnover, only 7% of the F&V national production, a drop from 14% in 2011. This is also far below the EU average of almost 50%.
The Commission considers that the creation of new POs covering a higher percentage of national production would allow Greek farmers to benefit more from various operational measures, including EU funds intended to address market imbalances.
Those measures such as for example advisory services can be used with a view to strengthen producers’ negotiating power vis-a-vis their downstream contractors in the supply chain or receive technical assistance on best practices which the sector can apply.
Lemons from outside the EU can be legally imported into the EU as long as they comply with relevant EU rules. For example, they are subject to strict phyto-sanitary requirements that include maximum residue levels for pesticides, which may not be exceeded. Compliance with these EU standards is verified via import controls at EU borders and by regular audits conducted by the Commission in the country of export.
Moreover, imports of lemons from outside the EU are subject to ad-valorem duties, unless foreseen otherwise in bilateral trade agreements. They are also subject to an entry price system control, which protects EU farm sales from low import prices, while at the same time guarantees continued EU supplies and market stability.”
Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/photos/lemons-tree-fruits-citrus-1149003/