New licensing arrangements for apple imports have come under fire from critics who fear they could be used to control trade.
European fresh produce trade body Freshfel said that it acknowledged the need for a system that would monitor imports effectively. But it opposed any measure that might hamper the entry of third country fruit into the EU.
General delegate Philippe Binard said: “Freshfel will keep vigilant to ensure that the objective remains purely administrative to monitor imports of apples into the EU without imposing restrictions.”
The European Commission has introduced the licensing system in a bid to prevent a repeat of last year, when a flood of southern hemisphere apples on the market caused European apple prices to plummet. Brussels believes some states were slow to release import level data, resulting in delays in the calculation of accurate market information that could have helped avoid the crisis.
The new regime will not restrict import quantities. But data generated could be used by Brussels to control trade through emergency quotas or tariffs. It could also help EU growers decide whether to withhold or divert produce.
The system will be in place until new IT to monitor imports is installed in 2007. Until then, importers will have to lodge a returnable deposit of E15/tonne when they apply for licences.
Adrian Barlow, chief executive of English Apples and Pears, warned of unwelcome financial implications to the whole supply chain in administering the scheme.