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Appendix 2A: European Union

The changing structure of the retail trade
Changes to the wholesale trade
Packing requirements for self-service
Market overview
Barriers to trade in the EU


In 1950 the governments of Belgium, France, The Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands began negotiating to integrate their interests in specific fields - notably coal, steel, foreign affairs and defence. The latter two were aborted but in 1951 the European Coal and Steel Community came into being with the Treaty of Paris, thus creating the embryo European Union of today.

In 1957, with the members the same as for the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) came into being. The three communities were distinct until 1967, when they merged their executives and decision making into a single European Community (EC). EC plans for economic and Monetary Union (Maastricht 1994) have been discussed, and there has been increased coordination on foreign policies and research and development. Since 1975, the EC has had its own revenue independent of national contributions from memberships.

The community has been gradually enlarged since 1967 with the accession of the UK, Ireland and Denmark in 1973, Greece 1981, Portugal and Spain in 1986 and Austria, Finland and Norway in 1994. Sweden's population turned down membership by referendum although it negotiated to apply. There are now currently 15 members in total, Turkey, Cyprus, Malta and Switzerland are applicants and the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have indicated that EC membership is a long term aim.

Change from EC to the Economic Union (EU)

In 1992 the EC achieved a single European Market in which all duties, tariffs and quotas have been removed on trade between member states and many obstacles to the free movement of people, money and goods have been abolished within the community. 1993 was the first year in which member states operated in a totally free trade area. This led to a change of name and outlook from an Economic Community to an Economic Union. The current community is the largest free trade area in the world - bigger than the USA and Japan combined, and has a total of 370 million consumers.

The institutions of the EU

There are four main Institutions - the Commission, the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice (see figure 2A.1)

The Commission: This consists of 17 members appointed by their national governments for a period of 4 years. The Commissioners elect a president and 6 vice presidents from their members. The Commission acts independently of national governments and makes proposals to the Council of Ministers and executes the decisions of the council. The Commission meets in Brussels, Belgium.

The council of ministers: This is the main decision body of the EU. The Council consists of the foreign ministers of EU member states. Heads of Government meet three times a year as the European Council, but specialist councils can meet at other times. The presidency of the Council of Ministers rotates with each member state taking the chair for six months. Ministers represent national interests and their decisions are usually unanimous although there is provision for majority voting.

The European court of Justice: This consists of judges and advocates general appointed for years by the governments of member states acting in concert. At least one representative is appointed from each member state. The court is responsible for deciding upon the legality of the decisions of the council of ministers and the commission and for adjudicating between the states in the event of disputes.

Figure 2A-1 The institutions of the EU

The European Parliament: This consists of some 600 members elected for five years by adult voting in member states. Members (MEP's) have the right to be consulted on legislative proposals submitted by the Council of Ministers or the Commission and have the power to reject or amend the budget of the EU. The Parliament meets in Strasbourg, its committees in Brussels and its secretariat in Luxembourg.

The EU since 1992

In order to achieve freedom of movement, there have been many changes in key areas of business, such as company law, product standards, transport and VAT. Inspection schemes, grading standards, labelling and price reporting are now almost standard throughout all EU member states. In practice this means that no regulatory checks are imposed at the internal frontiers in the Union, and that all road haulage permits and quotas for trade between member countries have been abolished. Many time-consuming delays at border crossings have been eliminated, to the great advantage of traders in perishable goods. However, trader based controls do exist to provide adequate safeguards in order to protect the Community's high standards of hygiene and plant health.

The creation of the EU free trade area will not lead to higher tariffs for imports of tropical produce from developing countries. However, existing restrictions within the framework of the EU have been kept in place. Products that do not meet the new harmonised requirements will not be allowed into the European market.

A further implication of the EU free trade area for overseas producers is the protection of the home market. If a product is grown within the EU itself, then suppliers from outside the community can market their produce only during the off-season period. If a product is not grown within the union, developing countries can market their produce to Europe the whole year round. Recently, Southern European growers have started producing kiwi fruit, avocadoes and lychees, and by using polythene coverings, have greatly extended the season for harvesting salad crops. Suppliers from developing countries will see their marketing opportunities for these products restricted to the off season alone, because European growers have the competitive advantage of direct free access to the single market, and lower transportation costs.


The European consumer has become very discerning and requires high quality fruits and vegetables. The main trends which have contributed towards the increased consumption of exotic fruits and vegetables are foreign travel, the need for a healthy nutritious diet, greater affluence, and a willingness by consumers to try new and exotic products. In addition, greater product mobility (transport, specialised storage and handling facilities etc.) has increased consumer accessibility to a wider range of products such as exotic and off-season products. This has led to a new class of consumer with more sophisticated tastes and requirements, to which importers pay particular attention.

The changing structure of the retail trade

The liberalisation of trade in the community has had its effect on the structure of retailing in many states.

There has been a general shift of power from producers and suppliers of goods to retailers. In most countries, the small independent retailers are in general decline.

In Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK the big supermarket chains now completely dominate the food retailing sector with market shares of over 50%. In Scandinavia and Germany, buying groups and voluntary chains are far more important. In the southern Mediterranean countries, such as Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece, the food retail structure remains much more fragmented. As yet, the supermarkets and hypermarket outlets play only a minimal role in food retailing in these countries. In Belgium, Norway and West Germany the local food specialist remains important.

One of the most significant changes that is currently taking place is the expansion of some of the large supermarket chains into other member states, and into the former German Democratic Republic and Eastern Europe. Thus the German discount store Makro has come to Britain and France, and the chains Tengelmann, Rewe, and Edeka have opened stores in the East. Meanwhile, French retailers have moved into Spain and Italy and are reported to be gaining a market share.

The multiple retailers are becoming increasingly powerful and have gained strong bargaining power vis-a-vis suppliers. This is due to the concentration and consolidation that has been taking place in the industry over the last ten years. The growing strength of the multiple retailers is resulting in rapidly increasing co-operation at international level. One example is Associated Marketing Services (AMS) a group based in Switzerland, in which leading chains of many European countries co-operate. AMS develops common marketing, buying and own brand production programmes for all suppliers to these retailer groups. It looks for common sourcing and shipping programmes for major product lines from southern hemisphere countries as well as summer fruit from northern Europe.

It has been predicted that by the year 2000, 70% of all goods bought in the EU will have been sold by large retail chains. Therefore by obtaining a contract with a single retail chain, a supplier can gain access to a much wider market than was once the case. In the exotics sector however, a significant proportion of trade is likely to remain in the hands of independent specialists.

Changes to the wholesale trade

The strength of supermarket buying power has directly affected the traditional role of importers and wholesalers of fresh produce. Those importers which have geared up to supply the supermarkets have expanded rapidly, and brought about a dramatic change in the nature of their business. The most successful have moved out of the wholesale commission markets, where capital requirements were modest, to new warehouse type premises, and begun to undertake packing, storage and national distribution to high standards.

The investments for these developments has come from mergers and acquisitions within trade itself, with the more powerful firms seeking an international presence. Examples of this are the expansion of the British companies Albert Fisher and Geest into Germany, and Fruttital's presence in Spain and the USA.

Meanwhile in the wholesale markets the growth of the catering sector is very much in evidence. The requirements of this industry for quality fruits and vegetables, means that it is becoming increasingly difficult for exporters to get away with sending inferior quality for sale in the wholesale markets.

The wholesale sector will be under severe pressure during the next decade. Those companies most likely to survive are the ones which can meet all the logistical requirements of the supermarkets, where the buyers now look for large volumes of product consistent in quality and supply. Aspects of supply have become more rigidly controlled, notably quality standards, hygiene in packing, packing standards and transportation.

The recent developments in the trade have had the effect of shortening the marketing chain. However, the concentration of buyers into fewer, more powerful organisations has increased their expectations of suppliers and the degree of competition among producers. It is essentially a buyer's market.

For the importer, reliability in delivery and quantity are the most important factors in choosing between different suppliers. Many suppliers are quite vulnerable as far as importers are concerned, and can find themselves replaced at short notice. However, many established importers provide technical and marketing assistance for their suppliers, and may even be prepared to take on freight charges if they think that a supplier has sufficient potential. It is therefore essential for any supplier from a developing country to try to establish long term relationships with wholesale importers.

Packing requirements for self-service

Supermarkets sell their produce by "self-selection" in which consumers select produce for themselves and pay for everything at a cash desk at the exit to the store. Produce may be presented "pre-packed", when a small number of units, such as 125 grammes of baby corn, are wrapped in clingfilm; on a small tray, and pre-priced. Alternatively produce may be presented as "free-flow", when it is often in bulk, and the consumer selects the items required. They are then weighed and priced at the check-out.

If produce is to be prepackaged, economics often dictate that it is done at source. Many of the larger supermarkets, especially the British stores, insist on a high standard of hygiene in these local packhouses: buyers travel overseas to inspect production areas and packhouses, usually in association with a wholesaler. Requirements can be wide-ranging to cover standards of construction, maintenance, quality control and hygiene, all of which increases the investment incurred by a producer. It is important that the true cost of these investments is considered when produce selling prices are calculated.

Market overview

The overall consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables in the EU has been fairly static or even gradually declining in some countries for some years. The total value of imports into the EU was worth US$36,438 million in 1992. Demand for fresh vegetables has been falling in favour of convenience products. Consumption of fruit is however increasing. This has been fuelled by the interest in healthy eating and to some extent by the fashion for exotic fruits. Between 1987-1992, there was growth in the value of imports into all EU markets. The sector exhibiting the strongest growth has been exotic fruits and vegetables.

Europe is a heterogeneous market, in spite of the single market. Consumer preferences differ from one country to another. For example, in Germany consumers place particular importance on price, in the UK they are said to 'eat with their eyes', whereas in France consumers are quality conscious. Import penetration into the Southern European markets is far lower. This market probably offers the most potential for taking more imports. Consumers here have closer cultural associations with seasonality, and place much more emphasis on taste and freshness.

The largest market for exotics and off-season products in the EU is the UK. This is followed by France and Germany with differences in emphasis between markets. Most of the imports into the Netherlands are re-exported.

The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom (UK) is a leading European market for off-season fruit and vegetables, and one of the largest markets for exotic produce. In 1992, total imports of fresh fruits and vegetables were valued at US$5,543 million. Imports grew in value by 31 per cent between 1987-1992. Its population of more than 56 million is fairly affluent, and demand for off-season produce continues to grow. The UK relies on imports for more than 50% of its fruit supplies. While traditionally it has been more self-sufficient in vegetables, changing tastes and lifestyles have increased the demand for off-season items.

The ethnic population, about 5% of the total, are mostly of West Indian or Asian origin. A large concentration of ethnic groups in many urban areas provides a substantial market for fruit and vegetable types that have not yet been accepted by the indigenous population.


France is twice as large in area as the UK, but has a similar population, of around 53 million. Over a fifth live in the Paris area, which is easily the largest conurbation in the country. The rest of the population is well scattered in smaller cities, towns and villages. France has excellent surface transport links with the neighbouring EU states of Belgium, Germany and Spain and also with Switzerland.

France is a major market for tropical and off-season fruits and vegetables in general, and is the largest European market for pineapples, green beans and several other exotic products. In 1992, total imports of fresh fruits and vegetables were valued at US$5,789.3 million. Imports increased in value by 39 percent between 1987 - 1992. French consumers are extremely quality conscious; they prefer fresh ingredients to frozen or canned products, and are willing to pay high prices for the best produce. Demand is expected to continue to grow.

France is a larger market for off-season items than true exotic produce. However, the demand for exotics is strong and the French are willing to try new products, and will buy in large quantities when accepted. In addition, there is a large community of foreign workers in the country; they originate mainly from North Africa, Spain, Portugal and from French overseas departments in Africa and the Caribbean, and boost demand for exotic produce. Supermarkets, especially in the Paris region, now try to display a range of exotic produce at all times.


Germany is the largest market for fresh produce in Europe. With a population after unification of 78 million, it is the largest nation in the EU. It imports almost 50% of its vegetables, and two thirds of its fruit requirements. Imports of all fresh fruits and vegetables were valued at US$12,593 million in 1992. While political changes have imposed great economic strains, German consumers are still on average among the most wealthy in Europe.

For its size, Germany is a relatively small market for tropical fruit and particularly for tropical vegetables. There is an immigrant population of around 3 million workers from countries such as Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Turkey which creates a demand for fresh Mediterranean type fruit and vegetables. Unification has increased the demand for mainstream imports such as bananas and citrus fruits in the former German Democratic Republic, but not as yet for specialist exotic produce.


Belgium lies at the heart of the EU. It is a major focus of commercial and political life in Europe, and its capital Brussels, as the head-quarters of the Community, has a wealthy and cosmopolitan community.

Belgium has a population of under ten million. It is one of the most crowded countries of the world, with about 800 people per square mile. About 95% of the Belgian population is urbanised. Therefore despite its small size, it is an important market for purchased foodstuffs. The population is split almost 50:50 into Flemish-speaking people and French-speaking Walloons, while the capital, Brussels, has a mixture of two groups. However, there is no ethnic market of any significance. There is a strong tradition of market gardening. Vegetables are an important crop and feature strongly in the diet. Local glasshouses are used for the production of off-season vegetables and flowering plants. Belgium is also renowned for certain specialist crops such as chicory and endive.

Despite its small population, Belgium is a promising market for tropical produce of high quality. In 1992, the total value of fresh fruits and vegetables was valued at US$2, 660.1 million (this includes Luxembourg). Between 1987 - 1992, the value of imports grew by 53 percent. In the French -speaking part of the country, and the city of Brussels, the extremely quality conscious consumers prefer fresh produce to frozen or canned goods. However, the demand for imported off-season produce will remain limited by the output from its own glasshouses. Nevertheless, due to its position, Belgium is an important entreport for neighbouring countries: it lies between the major European heavy industrial areas of northern France, the German Ruhr, and the Netherlands. Antwerp, on the River Scheldt, is a key shipping port for northern Europe and the country also handles a great deal of passing trade between its neighbours and the UK. Therefore an exporter to Belgium may gain access to a far wider market than that in the country itself.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands is a small country, a little larger than Belgium, situated around the river estuaries of the Rhine, Scheldt and Meuse bordering the North Sea. It is the most densely populated country in Europe, with around 15 million inhabitants. The Netherlands' position at the gateway to Europe, with excellent port facilities and river links to Germany and Belgium, has importance in fostering commercial trade, and the Dutch have a long history as traders and entrepreneurs.

The population has a relatively high standard of living. The Dutch are well travelled and commercially aware, and are generally willing to try the new products among the wide range of articles available in their supermarkets and specialist greengrocers' shops. About 4% of the population is of ethnic origin, mainly from Surinam, Turkey and Morocco.

The Dutch economy is centred around intensive agricultural and horticultural production from its rich marine silts, combined with trade. It has a considerable glasshouse production of 4,500 hectares, producing vegetables and flowers which are marketed via grower-owned auctions. Aubergines, capsicums and tomatoes are important protected crops. It is also a major producer of vegetables in the open, and of deciduous fruit. Despite this home production, the Netherlands actually imports three-quarters of its fruit requirements, and a quarter of its vegetables. Much of this is tropical off-season produce.

The bulk of home production is exported, and this has attracted a very considerable entreport trade. Hence the Netherlands is one of the largest importers of fruit and vegetables in Europe. In 1992, total imports of fresh fruits and vegetables were valued at US$4,263.3 million. Total imports of fresh fruits and vegetables increased in value by 41 percent between 1987 - 1992. 30% of imported fruits and 45% of imported vegetables are re-exported to other European countries. To give some examples, the Netherlands is the second largest European importer of melons, French beans and strawberries, and the third largest importer of mangoes. Exotic produce accounts for about 20% of fruit and vegetables imports. In addition there is a substantial transit trade, particularly in citrus fruits, which is not recorded in the import and export statistics.

Despite the importance of agriculture in the economy, 88% of the population is urbanised. Indeed the region between the country's largest cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, is so densely populated that it is referred to as one big city, the Randstad. Forty five percent of the Dutch live in this region.

Being major producers of fresh produce in their own right, the Dutch are significant consumers of fruit and vegetables. They are discriminating buyers, and only produce which is first class in appearance and taste will fetch a good price; however, they are also very price-conscious. Recent improvements in their standard of living and attention to health issues has increased the demand for fresh rather than processed produce, and for exotic and off-season items. Twenty years ago, the import of exotic produce was negligible. In 1975, for example, consumption of exotic fruits was 100 grammes per person. By 1990 consumption had risen to 1.5 kilogrammes per person, and is still increasing. Green beans, strawberries, asparagus and melons are especially popular.

In the longer term, the Netherlands' own glasshouse production of produce is likely to be constrained by energy costs and the increasing stringency of environmental controls. Combined with the rising demand for off-season items, the volume of imported produce is expected to increase.


Italy has a similar population to that of the UK and France, of around 57 million. It is a large and immensely varied country in both climate and culture, extending from the Alps southwards into the same latitudes as North Africa. Its urban population - 60% of the total - is mainly concentrated in the northern Lombardy plain, between the Alps and the Apennines, which is the industrial heartland of the country.

In 1992, total imports of fresh produce were valued at US$2,459.5 million. Imports grew in value by 51 percent between 1987 -1992. There is practically no ethnic market for true exotic products in Italy, and the indigenous population is catered for by Italian grown produce, which has a long production season and is cheap, plentiful and wide-ranging. The demand for off-season and exotic produce, especially vegetables, is therefore very limited.

Barriers to trade in the EU

The European trade in fruit and vegetables is currently regulated by a variety of EC and domestic directives.

Although there is an intention to harmonise all the national regulations into EC-wide standards, this process is taking its time. There remain significant differences between importing countries on a number of issues. To describe in detail the regulations in each major market goes beyond the scope of this document, and should be aware and kept constantly informed about the plethora of EU restrictions and legislations. This is in addition to the recent GATT Agreement concluded in April 1994.

The exporter should discuss the regulations with a knowledgeable importer as part of the planning stage of an export project. This 'information gathering' process should be maintained on an on-going basis. This is essential given the complex nature of the EU regulations and GATT provisions and the uncertainty surrounding some of the issues. It is still not clear what the outcome of some of these issues will be and how they will be implemented. The following notes review the issues involved. They focus and highlight on those issues which are most likely to affect LDC's current and potential exports of horticultural products, citing Zimbabwe as an example.

The barriers can be grouped as follows:

· Tariffs and quotas
· Quality standards
· Pesticide residues
· Hygiene issues
· Packaging.


The GATT system was established in 1947 by 23 Western countries, and by December 1993 membership had increased to 114 contracting nations. GATT's aim is the liberalisation of world trade, a process involving the abolition of quotas and other non-tariff barriers, and the gradual reduction of tariffs. The GATT principles are founded on non-discrimination, transparency and reciprocity in tariff reduction.

All GATT members are entitled to the same treatment on import into a particular country (the most Favoured Nation, or MFN Clause). Transparency is achieved if all import barriers are converted into import tariffs (as reflected in the quest for 'tariffication' of all border measures protecting domestic farm sectors in the context of the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations).

Since the establishment of GATT there have been several 'rounds' of international trade negotiations. The most recent and extensive, the Uruguay Round was launched in 1986 and, after several extensions, concluded in December 1993. The Agreement was launched in Marrakesh in April 1994, and after ratification, came into force in 1995. GATT has since been replaced by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Existing tariffs and quotas: The application of tariffs and quotas to imports into the EU has now been harmonised across the member states. A commodity will attract the same tariff irrespective of the port of entry, and once imported goods are free to circulate within the EU without further duty.

A duty regime exists for many of the products in the present study. While most are not subject to quota, a levy is raised or lowered on, for example, sweetcorn depending on local supply. Where there is a tariff, a product may receive preferential treatment as originating in an ACP (African, Caribbean & Pacific). The preference is given either by lowering or by removing the tariff.

To benefit from these preferences, the exporter must ensure that each shipment is accompanied by documentary evidence that the goods comply with the rules of origin. To be classified as ACP, Form EUR 1 must be supplied. Forms should be available locally, but can otherwise be supplied by the importer for completion.

Where there is duty to be paid, the tariff is shown as a percentage which is usually applied to the value of the produce (often referred to as ad valorem).

For customs purposes the valuation of the produce may be arrived at either by transaction method, based on the price paid by the importer, or by the simplified procedure which uses predetermined values for the goods, set fortnightly across the EU.

The importer is responsible for customs clearance.

The EU's implementation of the GATT Agreement: The GATT Agreement is to be implemented as from 1995 The broad outlines of the EU's commitments on fruits and vegetables are discussed below. Specific reference is made to imports. Details of their implementation are as yet unknown. Commission proposals are expected before long, with Council decisions before the end of the year. For the moment, however, much of the following discussion remains speculative.

Listed below are some of the measures which are most likely to affect some of Zimbabwe's current and potential exports of horticultural products. These are as follows:-

· 20% reduction of most tariffs over the six-year transition period

· 36% reduction for some products. These include potatoes asparagus, dates, pineapples and avocadoes between June and November, table grapes for part of the year, and apples provided the minimum import price is respected.

· 50% reduction for some items. These include some nuts, avocadoes between December and May, and grapefruits from November to April

· A complete elimination of duty on coconuts and tropical fruits (under Tariff heading 080109091). These include the minor tropical fruits such as tamarinds, cashew-apples, lychees, jackfruit, sapodilla plums, passion fruit, carambola, starfruit, papaya.

The EU can improve upon the arrangements for the above products. It may not impose more restrictive import conditions.

For a number of products rather more complicated and protective arrangements are to apply. These products are currently subject to reference prices and, despite the GATT Agreement on tariffication, it is the EU's intention that minimum import prices (known as minimum entry prices) will continue to apply. The products are as follows:

· tomatoes
· cucumbers
· globe artichokes
· courgettes
· citrus, except limes and grapefruit
· table grapes
· apples
· pears
· apricots
· cherries
· peaches
· plums.

If the entry price/value of a particular consignment is below the minimum entry price then a countervailing charge will be levied. The maximum countervailing charge that can be levied is also specified in the tariff schedules as a maximum tariff equivalent. For tomatoes, in the period 1 November to 20 December for example, the charge is listed as Ecu 372 per tonne. There is, however, some uncertainty about the amount of the countervailing charge which will be levied. It is understood that if the shortfall is small, the countervailing charge will be set to equal the shortfall. If however, the entry price falls below 92% (88% for apples and pears) of the specified minimum entry price then the countervailing charge will be set to equal the full maximum tariff equivalent (i.e. Ecu 372 per tonne for tomatoes in the example quoted above).

The impact of EU legislation and the GATT Agreement on Zimbabwean exporters and other LDC's:

· Under the new GATT Agreement, the fall in duties by between 20 - 30% over the next five years and up to 50% for those products which do not compete with European production will bring some modest benefits to exporters, particularly 'off-season' suppliers.

· Although minimum entry prices are themselves set to fall by 20% between 1995 and 2000, they have been set for many products at levels higher than local wholesale prices. This creates an almost impossible situation for exporters particularly during the main European growing season. Detailed analysis by the Confederation of Fresh Produce Importers (CIMO) has shown that the entry prices are unrealistically high (often during the specific periods) for a number of commodities. These include oranges, clementines, lemons, apples, pears, plums, peaches, tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes.

· As the Agreement stands, even for products exported within quota (and therefore duty free), when their import price is calculated to be lower than the entry price the exporter is liable for an additional tariff called the Maximum Tariff Equivalent (MTE). These tariffs are always set sufficiently high to render profitable exporting impossible.

There is little doubt that many of the EU regulations and new import regulations accepted under GATT are highly protectionist. Prospects for exporters may therefore become less attractive in some areas than they may have been before.

The entry price system effectively precludes the export of low quality, low value products. Non-EU suppliers must focus on obtaining high prices and the system will make it necessary for exporters to take greater responsibility for controlling volumes and managing the market.

The manner in which the system will be implemented is still to be resolved. Forceful lobbying and negotiation by export countries and their supporters could therefore reduce the negative impact.

Quality standards

The EU has agreed on a set of common standards for a range of fresh horticultural produce. They establish a specification for the commodity, and provide a simple classification based on quality and size.

Standards have been agreed for the following:








Flowering bulbs, corms and tubers




Cut flowers and foliage


Beans (other than shelling beans)



Brussels sprouts

Lettuce and endives and batavia



Sweet peppers




Mandarins (and similar hybrids)




Peaches and nectarines









In addition, quality standards are being considered for avocadoes, water melons, raspberries, grapefruit, broccoli and mushrooms.

The standards apply at all stages of distribution, including import, and the produce must comply with the standards, when provided, if it is to be traded within the EU. Recommendations, rather than legislation, for other produce can be found in the UN/ECE Standards for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables (ECE/AGR/55 United Nations, New York 1980 -1987) of the International Standardisation of Fruits and Vegetables, OECD, Paris 1962 -1987.

NB. New regulations make it possible to relocate EU border "Quality Control" inspection to the place of production, the country of origin, and to shift inspection to the company level and to trade associations working together with the State's Public Authorities. ACP countries need to organise to get "approved status" in place for their systems.

As a minimum requirement all produce must be

· intact
· sound
· clean
· sufficiently developed or ripe.

All standards should however be treated as a minimum requirement; it is more important to fulfill the customers' own specification which can be significantly more stringent.

Pesticide residues

Now a "Quality" concept within the EU environmental controls is increasingly being applied to horticultural production. The Netherlands is playing a pioneering role in this field. The Dutch government is planning to reduce air and soil pollution through insecticide use by up to 60% by the year 2000. It is expected that imported fruit may also have to meet the same requirements as European production in the future, and South Africa, for example, has already taken some initiatives in this respect.

In the basic Community Regulation EC/76/895 minimum levels of pesticide residues were established for a list of vegetables and fruit. Products with lower residues were established for a list of vegetables and fruit. Products with lower residue levels than those mentioned in the regulation were given free access to the market in each of the member states. Individual states were allowed to accept higher levels of residues.

The EU Regulation 90/642/EC on Maximum Residue Levels (MRL) was adopted by the member states in 1990, but the list of MRLs is not yet complete. The Commission's target is to harmonise between 80 and 100 pesticides for 1995. Until this is achieved national measures will be retained. Produce containing residues in excess of an MRL can be seized or destroyed. Within the EU there is a conflict between the higher standards (i.e. lower levels of residue) preferred by the northern states, and the lower standards acceptable to southern states. The exception is Italy which accepts a more limited list of chemicals and permits a lower level of chemical residue to be present. This causes difficulties for the import of Southern Hemisphere apples, pears and kiwifruit in particular into the country.

If the pesticide manufacturers' instructions are followed, maximum residue levels are not likely to be exceeded. The following guidelines outline sensible practice:-

1. Only use approved pesticides.

2. Apply the pesticide according to the manufacturers' instructions. Pay attention to the maximum dosage rates and to the minimum harvest intervals.

3. Ensure that the pesticides are applied by trained operators.

4. Record all applications. Hold records available for inspection.

5. If possible, sample produce from time to time for independent analysis of residue.

6. Maintain contact with importers on the subject. Be aware of differences in regulations between importing nations. Implement any amendments to EU directives and legislation.

A "Compendium of Pesticide Regulation in the European Community" (Oct. 1989) has been compiled by EUCOFEL. Although regulation 90/642/EC on MRL's has been adopted by the Member States of the EU, a Phytosanitary Certificate should still accompany every shipment to ensure swift import although it is no longer mandatory for most fruit and vegetables.

Council Directive 98/39/EC regulates inspection, sampling and analysis. EC Council Regulation No. 3185/91 ensures protective measures for the import into the community of fruit and vegetables from certain countries affected by cholera.

A new Directive (93/43/EC published 14 June 1993) on the hygiene of foodstuffs will enter national legislation soon. While it is principally concerned with food preparation within the community it will probably form the basis of future regulations for imports to the EU.

Once landed in the EU, produce is liable to national food safety regulations, which again differ between member states. It is, therefore, important to clarify these issues with the importer.

In general, the UK food hygiene regulations are among the most demanding in the EU. Produce suitable for import to the UK is therefore likely to be acceptable, on hygiene grounds, elsewhere in the community.

For the UK the Imported Food Regulations 1984 provide general rules which are applied to imports from outside the EU. The regulations prohibit the importation of such food that is unfit for human consumption or is unsound or unwholesome. The authorities may examine, detain, sample and test any consignment where they believe such action is appropriate.

Once imported into the UK produce is subject to the requirements of the Food Safety Act 1990. This covers a range of issues including labelling, additives, preservatives and composition of food.

In order to meet these regulations as well as their own customers' specifications, it is likely that importers will set high standards for preparation and packing conditions. In the case of prepacked vegetables such a code of practice will be stringent.

N.B. GATT is committed to basing all protective measures on scientific reasons for SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary Systems).


A number of issues must be addressed when selecting packaging. Broadly, they can be grouped into questions of containment for the logistics of distribution; protection to ensure the produce arrives at the point of sale in the best possible condition; marketing to present the produce in a preferred style; and environmental impact relating to the handling of the used packaging.

The manual on the Packaging of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables ITC UNCTAD/GATT introduces overseas exporters to the packaging requirements of the European markets. In particular, it deals with the questions of containment, protection and marketing which have hitherto dominated the requirements of the trade.

There is now increasing pressure to create a more environmentally friendly means of handling packaging waste. Some EU governments, rather than wait for an EU wide directive, have already enacted legislation regarding packaging and packaging waste. Their common objectives include the minimisation of waste, re-use by re-cycling and safe disposal where no other use is possible.

Even when the Directive is adopted, experts should still pay attention to national requirements as these may exceed the EU regulations.

Germany, one of the most environmentally sensitive members of the Community, was the first country in the world to enact legislation affecting packaging, which was introduced progressively from 1991 to 1993. The distribution and processing industries have had to develop new systems for either re-using packaging or re-cycling the packing material. Imported products fall under the same legislation.

Some major EU countries and the EU Commission have shown sympathy with the German Ordinance and may well adopt its basic tenets.

The important points for exporters in the German Ordinance on the Avoidance of Packaging Waste are as follows:

· it affects all types of packaging
· imports are subject to the same laws as locally produced goods
· for imports the responsibility for disposal of the packaging waste rests with the importer
· packaging waste cannot be disposed of in public landfills or by incineration
· the obligation to take back packaging does not apply if the importer takes part in a disposal system.

Under the Ordinance an umbrella corporation - the Duales System Deutschland (DSD) was set up jointly by German trade and industry to finance and manage packaging waste collection and recycling. The DSD is funded by a levy per item bearing its stamp (the Green Dot) which guarantees that the packaging can be reused or recycled. This Green Dot has rapidly gained acceptance throughout the trade and is recognised by the consumer. Third country exporters to Germany have had to ensure that their packaging fits into a recycling system or leaves no waste, otherwise it will not be accepted by German retailers. It is recommended that exporters should obtain the label for appropriate packaging through their importing partner.

The following general points apply to packaging materials in Germany:

Paper and cardboard - should be free of any substances which would make them unsuitable for the paper production process such as bitumen, wax, oil, adhesives, impregnating agents or coatings.

Wood and wooden pallets - only solid wood and untreated chip board without coatings, paint or lamination or similar is acceptable. No plastic material should be attached, nor metal parts that are more than 1 centimetre in diameter.

Foil/film - Only PE and PP foils without print, coating, adhesive and tape (excepting those which are of the same material as the foil) are acceptable. Bags should have no other material attached or be in any way contaminated.

Polyurethane foams and expanded polystyrene must be white, clean, without adhesives or smell and be separated into formed parts and loose chips. Foam containing CFC is not acceptable.

While the UK has yet to enact stringent legislation, France, Belgium and the Netherlands have all begun to adopt legislation for packaging waste. In France, the situation is similar to that in Germany with a "Point Vert" label administered through ECO-EMALLAGES with reciprocal arrangements with the German Green Dot. Belgium, however, is introducing a system of "Eco-taxes" which encourage the use of environmentally friendly products, i.e. those suitable for recycling or containing recycled materials. In the Netherlands goals have been set to reduce packaging waste. The government will enact legislation if the goals are not met.

An EU waste packaging directive was agreed in principle at the end of 1993 against objections from Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark that the targets for recovery and recycling were too lenient. Further debate was set to continue through 1994.

Recycling legislation has implications for exporters of fruit and vegetables. Firstly, purchases may dictate protective packaging which is easy to re-cycle, for example cartons rather than wooden crates. Secondly, where it is feasible, returnable packaging such as pallets will be encouraged. This clearly involves greater logistical problems for third country exporters who are further from the market than EU producers.

Impact on ACP and LDC's

Stricter control will be needed over pesticide usage and packaging materials and designs may have to be modified. The impact of the legislation will be to favour the larger, better organised and managed export operations who are fully supported by their national governments in the expensive process of negotiating with the EU and in challenging unscientific phytosanitary restraints to trade.

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