New Delhi: India will mount a strong protest and seek scientific evidence from the European Union (EU) after the 28-nation grouping banned imports of Alphonso mangoes and four types of vegetables from India, a government official said on Monday.

The EU, citing the presence of pesticides in the imported items, said its ban will run from 1 May 2014 to December 2015.

“We will take up the matter with the European Commission and will register our strong protest. We will soon write to the DG (directorate general) European Commission on the issue," a commerce ministry official said speaking under condition of anonymity.

The official said that out of 18 interceptions by EU port authorities carried out last month on fresh fruit imports from India, two showed the presence of harmful insects, while the rest were related to lack of certification and other issues, which are not the cause of the ban.

“We are asking for scientific evidence. Whatever are their findings, they have to share with us because any ban cannot be unilaterally carried out," he added.

The Press Trust of India reported from London that the 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, including fruit flies.

The EU banned the import of mangoes, eggplant, the taro plant, bitter gourd and snake gourd, citing “significant shortcomings in the phytosanitary certification system of such products exported to the EU".

Although the prohibited commodities represent less than 5% of 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. The UK’s department for environment, food and rural affairs that is backing the ban said it was necessary because pests could threaten the country’s £321 million 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 a year. A review of the ban will take place before 31 December 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 opposed the ban, 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.

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