The government certainly applies selective pressure on the EU to gain favourable terms in the ongoing talks on the trade agreement. By targeting citrus industry UK is definitely aims for a weak spot of the Union. Spanish citrus exports can be hard pressed now that the United Kingdom has announced its intention to apply import tariffs to citrus from the European Union from 1 January 2021. Clementines and other mandarins are subject to a 16% rate, while London maintains a 3.2% rate for customs duties on oranges.
For Spain, the world’s largest exporter of fresh citrus, the UK is the fourth largest customer with imports of approximately 288,000 tonnes per year, of which approximately 200,000 tonnes are clementines and Satsuma mandarins. The measure is part of future trade relations between the EU and the UK, but in the case of citrus, the Valencian Community is the main victim. 80% of the Spanish citrus destined for the UK comes from Valencia.
The UK is also buying citrus from other countries and in recent years in ever increasing quantities. While London is announcing that it will apply customs tariffs to Spain’s mandarins and oranges, direct competitors have already signed or are about to sign preferential agreements.
According to the Valencian professional organization Citrus Management Committee, the UK has already signed such agreements with South Africa, Israel, Morocco and Turkey. In each of those cases with a rate of 0%. Negotiations with Egypt are still ongoing, but the same result is expected.
The issue raises questions for exporters, as they are not sure whether everything depends entirely on the EU or whether the Spanish government should step up its gear to avoid disappointments of the last hour. After all, Spain is the country that may be most affected. Perhaps it should put more pressure on Brussels given the importance of Spanish fruit and vegetable exports. Because it will not remain with citrus alone. The UK will also levy import tariffs on the rest of the fruit and vegetables.
The export companies consulted have expressed deep concern about what is to come and what is already happening to some extent, as several UK supermarket chains are starting to ask their Valencian suppliers for price quotes for the next citrus season. Of course, in the midst of a crisis without precedent, no one can forward anything meaningful right now.