London: The 28-member European Union has temporarily banned the import of Alphonso mangoes, the king of fruits, and four vegetables from India from May 1, sparking protests from the Indian community, lawmakers and traders.
The recent decision by the grouping's Standing Committee on Plant Health came after 207 consignments of fruits and vegetables from India imported into the EU in 2013 were found to be contaminated by pests such as fruit flies and other quarantine pests.
The temporary ban, proposed by the European Commission, includes mangoes, eggplant, the taro plant, bitter gourd and snake gourd, and prohibits the import to tackle the "significant shortcomings in the phytosanitary certification system of such products exported to the EU".
Though the prohibited commodities represent less than 5 per cent of the total fresh fruits and vegetables imported into the EU from India, the potential introduction of new pests could pose a threat to EU agriculture and production, the committee noted. UK's Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) that is backing the ban said it was necessary due to pests which could threaten the country's 321 million pound salad crop industry of tomato and cucumber.
The UK imports nearly 16 million mangoes from India and the market for the fruit is worth nearly 6 million pounds a year.
A revision of the ban will take place before December 31, 2015. Businesses claimed they will lose hundreds of thousands of pounds due to the ban. Wholesalers and retailers in Indian-dominated regions of the UK have opposed the ban, which comes into effect on May 1, saying it will hit them hard.
"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 MP Keith Vaz, who has written to the European Commission president after his constituents in the city of Leicester made a plea.
He has also written to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to ascertain if the Indian government was consulted on the matter.