EU slaps ban on Alphonso, four veggies

Tags: News

NRIs and UK MP oppose ban; India to take up issue with EU

EU slaps ban on Alphonso, four veggies
Alphonso mangoes had barely hit the market, when the 28-member European Un­i­­on has slapped a ban on it for two seasons, citing fruit flies in some imports.

The ban, effective from May 1, has also been imposed on four vegetables – eggplant, taro plant, bitter gourd and sna­ke gourd — and will likely hit other mango varieties, such as Beng­a­napalli and Sin­dhur Dus­seri.

The Indian government said it would take up the matter with the EU. The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) said the issue would figure at the government-level meetings.

A senior APEDA official told Financial Chronicle that the issue could be tackled easily as proven techniques like hot water treatment and irradiation are now available to deal with the problem.

These treatments for pest-infested mangoes have been approved by the US, which had imposed an import ban on Alphonso mangoes in 1989 but lifted it in April 2007.

The APEDA official did not set any time frame, but said the matter could come up for discussion as early as next meeting.

India and the EU hold government-to-government meetings periodically.

The EU standing committee on plant he­a­lth, which slapped the ban, said the pest po­s­ed a threat to its £321 million salad crop industry. A revision of the ban will take place before December 31, 2015.

India exports about 3,800 tonnes of mangoes to the EU.

Of these, 3,400 tonnes — mostly Alphonso — is exported to the UK alone. The market size for Indian mangoes in the UK is estimated to be nearly £6 million.

India exports $45 billion worth of agri-products to the EU a year. Mangoes and the four banned vegetables account for 5 per cent of it.

The ban came after 207 Indian consignments of fruits and vegetables to EU were found contaminated with pests last year. The 28-nation grouping wants India to improve its systems for phyto-sanitary certification.

The Indian community, traders and even a section of the British lawmakers protested against the ban amid reports that Indian mangoes would soon disappear from the shelves in Europe.

“This is euro-nonsense, and bureaucracy gone mad. Indian mangoes have been imported to Britain for centuries. I am furious with the lack of consultation with those who will be affected by the ban,” said Indian-origin member of parliament Keith Vaz, who has written to the European Commission president on a plea made by his constituents in the city of Leicester.

He has also written to Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh to ascertain if the Indian government was consulted on the matter.

Wholesalers and retailers in the Indian-dominated regions of the UK have opposed the ban, saying it will hit them hard.

The EU argues that import of these fruits and vegetables may be small but they posed a risk of introducing non-native fruit flies in the European countries. UK’s department for environment, food and rural affairs backed the ban, saying it was necessary to protect the country’s salad crop industry of tomato and cucumber, news agencies reported from London.

UK’s environment minister Lord de Mauley said his department was working on lifting the ban as soon as possible.

“We are working closely with our Indian and European counterparts to resolve the issue and resume trade in these select products as soon as possible,” he said.

India is the world’s largest mango producer with 16 millon tonnes of output from the 450 varieties that grow across the country, but exports only 80,000 tonnes, which is still the largest mango shipment in the world.

During 2012-13, India exported fruits and vegetables worth Rs 5,986.72 crore, comprising fruits worth Rs 2,503.75 crore and vegetables worth Rs 3,482.97 crore.

The fruit basket mainly includes mangoes, walnuts, grapes, bananas and pomegranates, while onions, okra, bitter gourd, green chillies, mushrooms and potatoes largely contribute to the vegetable export basket.

Major destinations for Indian fruits and vegetables are the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Malaysia, the UK, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Saudi Arabia recently banned import of green chillies from India over a similar pest problem. The issue is still being resolved.

India holds just one per cent share of global fruits and vegetables exports, but the acceptance of Indian horticulture produce has been rising, as the nation starts building state-of-the-art cold chain infrastructure and deploys quality assurance measures.

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