EU bans South African citrus imports over disease fears - ( SP411N )

By Charlie Dunmore

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union on Thursday banned most imports of South African citrus for the remainder of this year over fears that a fungal disease found in dozens of shipments could spread to the 28-nation bloc.

The ban follows the interception of 36 citrus consignments this year from the EU’s chief summer supplier that were contaminated with the fungal black spot disease, which is not currently found in Europe.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the European Commission was set to propose the ban following pressure from citrus growers in southern Europe.

“The introduction of citrus black spot into the EU territory would pose a serious threat to the EU’s citrus-producing areas. For that reason, it is necessary to further restrict the import of citrus fruit from South Africa,” the Commission said in a statement confirming the move.

The ban will apply to all South African citrus shipments from regions where the disease is present, which covers the bulk of the country’s production.

Initially the ban will apply only to the 2012-2013 harvest, which ended in October. It will, therefore, have little immediate impact because the exports to Europe dry up around October anyway.

But EU officials have warned that the restrictions could be extended into next year if an ongoing study by the bloc’s food safety watchdog finds that the disease could take hold in Europe’s estimated 500,000 hectares of citrus groves.

That would threaten South Africa’s 600,000 tonnes of citrus fruit exports to Europe each year – mainly oranges, lemons, limes and tangerines – worth some 1 billion euros ($ 1.3 billion).

South Africa supplies about a third of the bloc’s total citrus imports and is the main source of oranges for the juice drunk by consumers in Britain, Germany and France during the European summer months.

The ban comes at a sensitive time, because the European Union is seeking South Africa’s support to unlock stalled trade deals with sub-Saharan Africa.

While harmless to humans, citrus black spot causes unsightly lesions on the fruit and leaves, reducing both harvest quality and quantity. There is no known cure, but fungicides can be used to control the spread of the disease.

It is found in many citrus-growing regions in the southern hemisphere as well as in China and the United States but has never established itself in Europe.

In a draft scientific opinion published in July, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said the chance of citrus black spot taking in hold in Europe was “moderately likely”.

But it added there was a high level of uncertainty due to a lack of knowledge over how the disease would respond to the EU climate.

EFSA’s assessment is due to be completed by the end of this year.

(editing by Jane Baird)


Some South African clinics running short of HIV/AIDS drugs: MSF - ( SP411N )

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – One in five South African clinics are running short of life-saving HIV/AIDS drugs, affecting nearly half a million people and undermining the success of the world’s largest treatment program, medical charities said on Thursday.

With about 6 million people infected with the virus – more than 10 percent of the population – South Africa carries the world’s heaviest HIV/AIDS caseload and has around 2.5 million people taking antiretroviral (ARV) drugs daily.

However, the huge numbers are causing the system to creak, health researchers say.

Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières surveyed more than 2,300 of South Africa’s 3,800 public health facilities and found that one in five had either run short or run out of drugs in the previous three months.

Of the affected clinics, catering for 420,000 patients, 20 percent said they had had to turn away patients, putting the effectiveness of the ARV treatment plan at risk, MSF said.

“The sheer scale of the problem shows stock-outs to be one of the principal barriers to maintaining an effective treatment program,” said Anele Yawa of the Treatment Action Campaign, an HIV/AIDS advocacy group that took part in the research.

The health ministry acknowledged some problems but said MSF was exaggerating the situation.

“When you are running a project as big as this, you’re likely to have some challenges,” said health ministry spokesman Joe Maila. “We accept there’s a problem but the level at which they pitched it is an extreme over-exaggeration.”

A year ago, South Africa awarded a $ 667 million two-year contract to pharmaceutical firms including Aspen Pharmacare, Abbott Laboratories and Adcock Ingram to supply HIV/AIDS medication.

(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Ed Cropley)


Tank Top TV lets you find where to stream or download box sets, instantly - ( SP411N )

Tank Top TV is a website that houses links to over 2500 digital TV box sets. It’s a bit like a Google search that only links to videos and has everything you could want to watch. That’s over 73,000 episodes of TV at your fingertips.

Imagine you want to watch a box set your mate has recommended. When you search on Google you’ll be met with countless websites selling the physical box set. What if you want to watch it now? Check Netflix and Lovefilm? Then what? Blinkbox, iTunes, iPlayer, NOW TV? It’s going to take a while. So Tank Top TV has taken the leg work out and put them all in one place.

Once you’ve found a box set, from searching or just browsing, all the links to where that can be streamed or downloaded from are right there. It’s simple and easy. Obviously with illegal downloading as an option for many this might simply serve as a menu, but for those willing to pay it’s a great way to find and access shows instantly.

This is an expansion to the company’s current list of over 13,000 digitally available movies also listed on the site.

Tank Top TV CEO and co-founder Liz Rice says: “Our free listings offer a clear choice of TV favourites, hidden gems people may have missed and currently popular shows. They can either be viewed immediately or added to a watch list for later.”

Check it out for yourself at the link below.

© copyright Pocket-lint 2013


Get 25 per cent off buying out your O2 contract and upgrade phones with Speed to Refresh - ( SP411N )

O2 already offers a Refresh contract that allows you to upgrade your handset whenever you feel like it. Now it’s extending that to other O2 users with Speed to Refresh.

Not only does Speed to Refresh allow current customers to change their deal to the Refresh contract, and get a new mobile, but O2 is currently discounting 25 per cent off the remainder of their current contract as a welcome. This amount is deducted from the contract which the person is buying out in order to start the O2 Refresh contract.

O2 Refresh works by splitting the monthly contract into two: one part for the airtime bundle and one for the phone. This means you can upgrade your phone whenever you want without having to waste money paying off an old line rental contract. And if you hang onto your handset for the full two year contract the bill will half as you only pay for the airtime bundle.

“Our customers love O2 Refresh and since we launched it more than 95 per cent of customers who could buy O2 Refresh have chosen to,” said Gary Booker, O2′s interim Marketing and Consumer Director.

Speed to Refresh is available to any existing O2 Pay Monthly customer who signed up to a consumer tariff between 1 January 2011 and 31 March 2013, are still within the minimum term length of their contract for at least three months and are looking to move onto a new O2 Refresh contract.

© copyright Pocket-lint 2013


Britain announces independent review of plain tobacco packaging - ( SP411N )

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain announced an independent review of tobacco packaging on Thursday and said it was ready to introduce new laws banning branding on cigarette packets if the report found sufficient evidence to support it.

The government, which in July delayed a decision on the issue, said the review was due to report back in March 2014 and would look into whether standardized packaging is likely to have an effect on public health, particularly in relation to children.

The long-standing debate on the issue pits health campaigners, who back the move, against big tobacco firms which say it would put jobs at risk and encourage smuggling. In Britain, the subject has also prompted criticism from the opposition Labour party over the extent to which the tobacco industry is able to influence government policy.

The news hit stocks of British tobacco firms. British American Tobacco shares were down 0.9 percent at 3243.5 pence at 5:09 a.m. ET, while smaller rival Imperial Tobacco Group’s shares were down 2.5 percent at 2304 pence.

After a lengthy public consultation, Prime Minister David Cameron in July delayed a move to force manufacturers to sell tobacco in plain packets, saying he wanted to see more evidence from other countries on the effectiveness of such a move.

Almost exactly a year ago, Australia passed a law saying cigarettes must be sold in dark brown packets with no colors or logos, with the name of the product printed in a standardized small font.

(Reporting by William James; editing by Stephen Addison)


Britain announces independent review of plain tobacco packaging - ( SP411N )

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain launched an independent review on tobacco packaging on Thursday and said it was ready to introduce new laws banning branding on cigarette packets if the report found sufficient evidence to support it.

The government, which in July delayed a decision on the issue, said the review was due to report back in March 2014 and would look into whether standardised packaging is likely to have an effect on public health, and particularly in relation to children.

(Reporting by William James; editing by Stephen Addison)


Travel agent Thomas Cook makes first profit since 2010 - ( SP411N )


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