Home >Politics >Policy >EU agrees to lift import ban on Alphonso mangoes

The European Union (EU) has agreed to lift the ban on import of Alphonso mangoes from India before the start of next season, but the ban on import of four other vegetables from the country may stay for longer.

“They have communicated to us that they are going to lift the ban on Alphonso mangoes before the next season, but lifting the ban on other vegetables may take more time," said a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Citing the presence of pesticides, the EU had banned the import of Alphonso mangoes, brinjal, taro, bitter gourd and snake gourd from 1 May 2014 to December 2015. The ban is estimated to have affected exports worth millions of dollars.

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 with pests, including fruit flies.

Although the prohibited commodities represent less than 5% of fresh fruits and vegetables exported to the EU from India, the potential introduction of new pests could pose a threat to EU’s agriculture and production, the committee noted.

The UK’s department for environment, food and rural affairs, which backs 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.

After a strong protest by India, a team of experts from the Food and Veterinary Office of the EU visited Indian facilities in September last year. The EU experts gave a favourable report stoking expectations that the ban on all items would be revoked. India has now made it mandatory that every export of food product to the EU will go through a standard inspection process.

“We are also surprised on their stand on other vegetables and we will soon take up the matter again with them as they looked satisfied when they visited our facilities," the official added.

The EU has also complained that Indian systems are not helpful for its countries to export processed foods, said the official.

Insram Ali, chairman of Mango Export Promotion Council, said the ban imposed by the EU on Alphonso mangoes had a significant impact on business since 30-40% of the mango variety is exported to European countries. “A lift of ban by EU will be a big boost to our exports," he added.

A team of European experts also visited the country last month to inspect pesticide levels in sesame seeds used in confectionery. The EU experts have submitted a report seeking more improvements in Indian processing units and laboratories. “The recommendations are useful. We can work on them to improve our systems," said the official.

Sesame seed is a high-value cash crop that is used in bread and cakes in Europe. In Japan, the seed is added to salads and baked snacks. Japan is the world’s largest sesame seed importer.

Sesame seed production in the current crop year 2014-15 is expected to rise by around 130% to 0.43 million tonnes on high acreage and increase in yield, according to estimates by the Shellac And Forest Products Export Promotion Council.

India exported 299,482 tonnes of sesame seeds in 2013-14 against 389,153 tonnes in 2012-13, shows the council’s data.

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