TRADE

Spain confirms suspect citrus shipment to China was illegal

Two thousand crates filled with oranges and lemons destroyed on Tuesday at a Chinese port

Workers taking out the citrus fruit that was later destroyed due to illegal export papers.
Workers taking out the citrus fruit that was later destroyed due to illegal export papers.REUTERS

Spanish diplomatic authorities on Thursday confirmed that a 20-ton shipment of lemons and oranges destroyed two days earlier by Chinese authorities did not meet export requirements.

These same sources added that they green-lighted a decision not to allow the citrus fruit shipment into the Asian market.

On March 11, China’s quality-control agency notified Spanish authorities about the arrival of a “suspect” shipment. After checking for official documentation and failing to find any, the cargo was deemed illegal, and authorities even questioned whether it really came from Spain as claimed.

Both countries are negotiating new protocols that would enable Spain to export grapes, prunes and peaches to China

“The Spanish sector has an interest in going after fraudulent activity,” said Samuel Juárez, the agricultural advisor at the Spanish embassy in China. “It is important to conduct a proper investigation, but there should be no repercussions because we’ve seen that the controls work.”

According to the phony papers that came with the shipment, the fruit was grown in the Spanish province of Alicante. But “since the documents were irregular, there is the possibility that the fruit was not even Spanish to begin with,” said Juárez.

Chinese authorities buried the produce in quicklime to prevent the risk of infestations.

Spain is authorized to export citrus fruits to China since the introduction of pest and disease protocols for these products in 2007. The first Spanish shipments to the Asian country did not begin until 2014, however.

That year, Spain exported a million euros’ worth of citrus fruit to China, a figure that tripled in 2015. Exporters expect to see further growth this year.

The embassy advisor said that Spain will investigate the origin of the destroyed consignment once China sends more specific information, and doubted that this incident would affect bilateral relations or future trade agreements because “correct action was taken.”

Both countries are negotiating new protocols that would enable Spain to export grapes, prunes and peaches to China.

The suspect oranges and lemons were packed in around 2,000 crates and valued at around €14,000. They were destroyed on March 15 at the port of Tianjin, some 200 kilometers from Beijing and the biggest gateway for foreign imports into the Asian market. The geographical distance between Spain and China makes it a difficult destination for fruit, since the shipment and refrigeration costs are higher that those in other markets.

English version by Susana Urra.

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