From 1st September, the European Union will apply new pest control measures that could restrict imports of certain fresh fruits and vegetables from Canada and other countries. The affected products include species of apples, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, pears, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes.
The underlying measure is Council Directive 2000/29/EC (the “Directive”), which requires EU member states to, among other things, “ban the introduction into their territory” of the “plants, plant products and other objects” affected by certain harmful organisms unless “the relevant special requirements” are met (see Article 5). Those requirements, which are set forth in Annex IV of the Directive, compel exporting countries to provide “official statements” and supporting documents to confirm either (i) that the goods are pest-free, or (ii) that protective measures (e.g., “effective treatments”) are in place to control the pests and prevent them from spreading. In the words of the EU Commission, the Directive establishes “the obligation for non-EU countries to communicate some information for importing certain commodities under specific import requirements” (see “EU Plant Health Legislation”).
The current trouble arises from the most recent amendments to the Directive under Commission Implementing Directive (EU) 2019/523 of 21 March 2019 (the “Amendments”). Among other things, the Amendments introduce new requirements under Annex IV (e.g., points 16.7, 16.8, 16.9, and 16.10) and establish additional criteria for meeting existing requirements (e.g., point 16.5). For example, the new point 16.10 requires the submission of “official statements”, supported by certifications and other evidence, to confirm that apples, cherries, pears and cranberries “originating in Canada, Mexico and the USA” are either free from a certain moth larva or “fruitworm” (G. packardi Zeller) or subjected to “an effective treatment to ensure freedom” from the pest. There are also other new requirements that are broader in scope, covering fruits and vegetables imported into the European Union from other countries.
Article 2 of the Amendments requires EU Member States to apply “the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary” to implement the new requirements “from 1 September 2019”. Starting on this date, fruits and vegetables from countries that have not yet provided the “official statements” and supporting documents required under the Amendments will be subject to the import ban mandated under the Directive.
The European Commission has published summaries of the “official statements” and other “official information” submitted by non-EU countries, and these documents clearly indicate which requirements have not yet been met on a country-by-country basis. For example, the summary for Canada indicates that information has not yet been provided (or is “expected” to be provided) for a number of the new and amended requirements in Annex IV. Reports indicate that a notice document issued by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to industry stakeholders states that “the CFIA is working with industry to propose pest risk mitigation measures to the EU for these commodities, which may allow exports to resume”.