“The WCO will be a transparent organisation”

José Antonio García AILIMPO

Everything is now ready for the official formalisation of the World Citrus Organization (WCO) at Fruit Logistica.

Its members have worked hard for weeks for this debut. The organisation is moving forward under the premise of transparency and it is also just about to have its first joint work session. José Antonio García, manager of Ailimpo gives us a preview of some of the details.

With only a few weeks before the next official meeting of the WCO, can you give me a preview of the topics that will be covered for the final launching of the organisation?

All the delegates will have a meeting that will consist of two parts: one, in which the formal, final establishment of the organisation will take place, and the second, which will be the first work meeting where information about the situation of the production and the markets in the northern hemisphere will be offered, as well as the first harvest forecasts for the southern hemisphere. We will also see what our plan of action will be, both for 2020 and in the medium term.

I suppose that the articles of association, the management committee and all the legal implications that must rule an organisation of this scale are already in place. Can you tell me anything about this?

First of all, I would like to emphasise that the basic premise of this organisation’s work is transparency. We are acting with complete clarity. Indeed, we already have working documents regarding the articles of association. As far as Ailimpo is concerned, all the members of the Lemon Interprofessional Association know these details. I can tell you that there will be 2 categories of members: full members, which are the associations that represent the sector on a national level in each country, and a second category, as associated companies.

In order to maintain a reasonable balance, there will be two co-presidencies, one for the northern hemisphere and another for the southern hemisphere. Freshfel holds the secretariat of the organisation and the technical area will be taken on by the CIRAD of France.

Due to Spain’s weight as the leading fresh citrus fruit producer, with a great distance ahead of other countries, will there be any deference towards our country?

Yes. One of the conditions that Ailimpo imposed from the very first moment of the project was that we were represented by two chairs: one for lemons and grapefruit, which would be for Ailimpo, and another for the representatives of mandarins and oranges, which will be in the hands of Intercitrus or the cooperatives. Really, I don’t know who will hold it, due to the fact that the Citrus Fruit Management Committee is blocking the final start up of Intercitrus.

Is the holding of the 1st World Citrus Congress still on the cards?

Yes, of course. Our aim is to hold it in 2020, although we would pass it over to 2021 if we did not have sufficient time for it. In any case, the idea is still there and we will deal with it in greater detail in Berlin.

Please explain the reasons Ailimpo uses to argue the case about the need to be represented in an organisation of this scale.

Ailimpo’s responsibility is to lead the sector in all the forums that talk about lemons and grapefruit. This has been our vocation for the past 20 years. We need to have a place where we can exchange information, analyse promotion trends, market trends, promote specific joint research and innovation projects; in short, to exercise the leadership role that the sector requests and demands of us.

Not all the Spanish sector agrees with Ailimpo’s decision and, at least, some sources label you as betraying Spanish interests. What do you think about these statements?

We are trying to work and to have a forward-looking approach. We would like the mandarin and orange sector to follow in our footsteps. I think that almost everything has already been said about this project. We are supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and the European Commission. I, personally, think that going against this project means moving against the current and time will prove us right. AILIMPO works for the lemon producers, who are the keystones of this business, to ensure that they receive a profitable price and here is the data from the latest campaigns. Is this being a traitor? Those who accuse us are unable to bring profitability to the orange and mandarin farmers, which is curious.

If you co-manage the WCO, what will your approach be regarding a priority matter: the entry of foreign pests?

This point is an absolutely indisputable priority. Belonging to this world forum is perfectly compatible with trying to ensure that no pests are introduced in our country. One of Ailimpo’s top priorities has always been plant protection against pests coming from third countries. Our position will not change and this is not subject to any negotiation.

And regarding this topic, what is your response to the fact that South African exporters (which have brought us some pests: Delottococcus aberiae, etc.) do not pass through Spanish ports, if we are the ones who re-package the produce and serve it again?

We are living in a global, interconnected world and trade is the activity that allows producers to be paid. Spanish citrus fruit exporters have the chance to offer service and increase customer loyalty in the counter season with fruit imported from other sources, generating employment and wealth in Spain. The condition is that this activity is carried out by promoting and guaranteeing a safe trade from the plant-health point of view.

The Interprofessional Association that you represent has clearly managed to put Spanish lemons and grapefruit on the map both in Europe and in the world and you are doing quite well. What are the next goals?

The first will be the start of the ‘Limón de España/Spanish Lemon’ promotion that will begin here and continue in Germany, France, the United States and Canada, with a budget of around 6 million euros for 3 years. Another is to continue working on sustainability and biodiversity because we want Spanish lemons to be identified as sustainable lemons. Additionally, we will work with a 4.0 project for the start up of a blockchain platform and, finally, we are highly expectant with regard to the opportunities that the “Green Deal”, announced by the Commission could open up for us.

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