France reinstates ban on US cherry imports over pesticide safety fears

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On April 8, 2020 France published its fifth emergency decree banning fresh cherry imports from countries where the use of the chemical dimethoate is permitted in cherry production. France made the decision because the EU, despite prohibiting dimethoate use, has not yet set the maximum residue limits for the pesticide.

The countries impacted are Canada and the United States. Organic and frozen cherries are not banned under this safeguard measure.

As a result, the United States cannot export fresh cherries to France. French cherry production continues to fall because of the government’s ban on dimethoate use. Fruit importers and traders fear that France may implement similar domestic use and import bans for other EU-approved pesticides because this would disrupt the free movement of EU and third-country fruits and vegetables into France.

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Dimethoate is used to control Drosophila suzukii, an Asian fruit fly that causes considerable damage in cherry orchards. France claims it is also dangerous to human health. France imports roughly one fifth of its cherry consumption, the majority coming from EU countries such as Spain and Germany that have both already banned dimethoate use.

The United States exported about $1 million in cherries to France annually before the ban began in 2016. As France’s production declines and production costs rise because France’s producers no longer have access to dimethoate, French cherries continue to be scarcer and more expensive. This creates opportunities for competitors in traditional French export markets such as the United Kingdom.

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