The founding meeting of the World Citrus Organization (WCO) formalised the membership of the body at Fruit Logistica in Berlin.

The formation of the WCO was announced last year, and since then a number of other citrus producing countries have joined the organisation.

The WCO is the first global organisation for the citrus sector and said it hoped to increase coordination, dialogue and action between citrus producing countries across the world.

In a statement issued in Berlin, the WCO says it now represented 70 per cent of citrus growers across the world, with founding members including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Egypt, France, Israel, Italy, Morocco, Peru, South Africa, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay and the US.

Justin Chadwick, CEO of South Africa’s Citrus Growers’ Association (CGA), said the members of the WCO unanimously appointed the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa and the Spanish Lemon and Grapefruit Interbranch Association, Ailimpo,as WCO co-chairpersons for a period of two years.

Chadwick said that South Africa, the second largest global exporter of citrus, played a leading role in the formation of the WCO.

“Through its co-chairmanship, South Africa will continue spearheading a new path for the sector where citrus producing countries working together to promote the industry.

Strategic decisions taken as to the responsibilities of WCO include dealing with issues affecting citrus producing countries, exchanging information on production and market trends, fostering dialogue on policy, identifying and promoting research and innovation, liasing with public and private stakeholders to highlight the importance of citrus producers and the need for a fair return for their fruit, and to promote global consumption.

It was also confirmed that European fresh produce association Freshfel Europe would coordinate and administer the WCO, and that the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) would provide expert market analysis and advice on trends for the citrus industry globally.

The WCO’s immediate focus will be to collect the production and marketing data for the industry for this season. A World Citrus Conference is also being planned for either late 2020 or early 2021.

Chadwick said in his statement that the WCO was aiming to claw back market share taken by other organised fresh produce sectors. “The goal is to get more people to consume citrus – whether that be fresh or processed.”