The decision of the European Union to ban mango import from India, especially the Alphonso, an exotic and highly sought-after summer visitor from India, and four other varieties of vegetables, is only temporary, says the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The ban, to be imposed from May 1, has been strongly opposed by retailers and the import lobby.

A Defra spokesperson said mangoes constituted only a small percentage in value of the total commodity import basket.

There were “significant shortcomings” in the phytosanitary certification system of such products exported to the EU, according to the EU committee.

“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,” the Defra spokesperson said.

The restrictions affect only 8.5 per cent of the mangoes imported into the U.K.

“An example of the pests being intercepted frequently is the Tobacco whitefly, which can carry over 100 harmful viruses, which would be very damaging to U.K. salad crops if introduced. Tomato crops are particularly susceptible and 100 per cent yield losses have been seen in some outbreaks in Israel,” said the spokesperson.

The restrictions would be lifted just as soon as the biosafety aspects were addressed, Defra added.

In the U.K., Monica Bhandary, the owner of Fruity Fresh (Western) Ltd., U.K.’s biggest mango importer is circulating an e-petition that has already attracted signatures in thousands. She argues that the ban, “excessively severe and a disproportionate”, is due to a fruit fly found in less than 5 per cent of imports, and claims that the EU has only warned of a possible but unproven impact on agriculture.

“For many growers and exporters in India, the ban means the end of their business. Growing for the season has commenced and so vast quantities of mangoes will be destroyed.”

PTI reports that Indian-origin MP Keith Vaz has written to the European Commission president and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ascertain if the Indian government was consulted on the matter.

Mango prices fall

Sukhada Tatke writes from Mumbai:

The EU may not be a key factor in the drastic drop in prices. While prices of mangoes have fallen in the last few days, key holders of the mango trade say that only 10 per cent of the mangoes are exported to the EU countries.

In Mumbai, mangoes are being sold between Rs.600 and Rs.2,000. Until two days ago, the range was from Rs.1,000-3,000.

“Of the entire produce, only 10 per cent of mangoes are exported to countries in the European Union and 30 per cent to the Gulf. The sudden drop in price is mainly because the heat has increased, helping the mango produce,” said Sanjay Pansare, office bearer of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee.

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