The European Commission’s Standing Committee on Plant Health said that fruit flies and other quarantine pests had been found in 207 consignments of fruits and vegetables from India imported into the EU last year.
The temporary ban, which comes into effect on May 1, includes Indian mangoes, eggplant, taro plant, bitter gourd and snake gourd, and prohibits their import to tackle the “significant shortcomings in the phytosanitary certification system of such products exported to the EU”. The ban will be reviewed before the end of 2015.
However, AS Rawat of India’s Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda) said the EU’s “unilateral” decision came without consultation and even less opportunity for recourse.
“It’s a unilateral decision made by the EU,” Rawat told FoodNavigator-Asia. “The EU did an audit and determined that [imports of mangoes from India] constitute a phytosanitary issue. The clarity is not there but we have to subscribe to this ban regardless. Only later will they reconsider lifting the ban.”
According to Apeda, the issue, especially where mango is concerned, concerns fruit flies, even though Rawat asserts that it is standard practice in India to use post-harvest treatments to clear the fruit of pests.
“Our position is very clear. Our exports come with heat treatment. We ship our mangoes to Australia, to Japan, to New Zealand, to China. These countries accept our treatments are effective. Now we are clueless now about what to do about it, especially as our season is now half-way through,” Rawat added.
‘Bureaucracy gone mad’
The potential introduction of new pests from Indian mangoes and could pose a threat to EU agriculture and production, the EC committee stated.
In Britain, which accounts for 90% of Europe’s demand for Indian mangoes, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is backing the ban, saying it is necessary due to pests that could threaten the country’s £321m (US$540m) salad crop industry of tomato and cucumber.
The UK imports a reported 16m mangoes from India in a market worth nearly £6m a year.
Although the ban on exports to the EU will not have a massive impact on the wider Indian mango industry—Rawat says it might take a 5-10% hit—it is the latest in a line of setbacks for growers, who have suffered crop damage and unseasonable weather this year. Some estimates suggest a fall of up to 40% in yield from major mango-producing regions in the country.
“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 British MP Keith Vaz, who has voiced his concerns in a letter to the European Commission president.