Tunisia: Citrus Disease Discovery Risks Disrupting Exports to Europe

by | Jun 3, 2024 | Diplomacy, Economic, Political, Tunisia


In mid-May 2024, the Spanish government announced that the Citrus Black Spot disease is prevalent in Tunisian citrus, raising concerns in North Africa and the EU that the disease could pose a major threat to Mediterranean citrus production. 

The Citrus Black Spot disease originated in South Africa, with long-standing assessments that the disease could not adapt to a Mediterranean climate. However, recent findings in Tunisia raise concerns that the disease could threaten production not only in Tunisia, but in EU production areas in Spain and elsewhere. 

The disease can be easily spread and not only impacts the visual appeal of the fruit, but can degrade the production of infected trees by causing the fruit to drop from the tree prematurely. The disease does not degrade the quality of the fruit internally which remains safe for human consumption, but it does reduce marketability. There is no proven method for eradication once the disease has infected a production area. 

These reports come as citrus prices globally have risen significantly in the face of flagging production of oranges in the southern US and Brazil. 

France has typically received a large portion of Tunisia’s citrus exports, with Libya also importing a large volume. 


Given stringent EU standards for imported fruits, including treatment and monitoring for potential diseases, the discovery of Citrus Black Spot disease risks disrupting trade and potentially limiting the volumes of citrus that Tunisia can export to European markets. 

The required treatments and pre-export monitoring could create economic challenges for producers and disrupt trade flows. Such disruptions could eventually cause suppliers to look to different markets for supplies where the disease has not yet been detected. 


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