By itself the marking does not contain requirements which cannot be coped with. The marking (it’s a sticker in the Russian language) describes name of the product (an apple or an orange), country of origin, exporter, importer, weight, etc. what is already specified in shipping documents (bill of lading, certificate of origin, phytosanitary certificate) in English. One more thing must be written on sticker, this is period of validity of commodity (expiration date) which is nonsence in relation to fruits: an apple can be good after a year of storage or go rotten in a week, if a worm gets in. South Africans are able to type such a sticker, sometime with mistakes though because Russian is not widely known in South Africa. Worse is that the sticker must be affixed on each carton, and this comes into friction with technology of fruits preparation and sending for export accepted in South Africa. The matter is that according to the existing technology of work with perishables, fruits after picking and packing at farms must be as soon as possible delivered to cold storages at ports of shipment. They are brought already fixed and sliced on pallets to sustain long transportation by sea to customers worldwide.
Name and address of the concrete customer is often made known at the last moment before loading of pallets on vessels or into containers. It’s not possible to break pallets, glue stickers on each carton – there are minimum 70 of them on each pallet - and then slice them together in conditions of the port storages. To stick EAC marking on cartons in the process of fruits packing is affordable for big exporters who work with big Russian importers under seasonal programs. It’s expensive, but acceptable technologically. But for medium and small farms and exporters who work on spot market, destruction of pallets and gluing stickers on them in the port before loading is not possible. They have left the Russian market.
It should be noted that small and medium sectors of fruit business is mainly occupied by black entrepreneurs who are advanced by South African government in lines of “black economic empowerment” policy. For them the Russian market becomes closed. On the Russian side extra cost of “stickers” is borne by common consumers for whom oranges from South Africa become costlier, though still the cheapest amongst other fruits, no matter local or imported.
Efforts of business associations of Russian and South African entrepreneurs to draw attention of EAC and customs authorities to abnormal situation about the “stickers” which have turned into a technical barrier in trade with South Africa, so far give no results.
Head of Food and Agriculture Sector Russia-RSA Business Council