UK says working to end ban on Indian mangoes

The UK today said it is "working closely" with India and the European Commission to end an impending halt to mango imports from India, which is to take effect from 1 May.

The 28-member European Union has imposed a temporary ban on import of Alphonso mangoes and four vegetables from India from 1 May, sparking protests from the Indian community, lawmakers and traders in the UK.

Mangoes from India, often sold by the box-load, will be banned from Thursday because of suspected presence of plant pests that could threaten European salad crops.

The UK on an average imports nearly 16 million mangoes each year, worth £6 million.

Those traders in the UK who cater mainly to Indian customers, said there were other options to tackle the pests and called for an "urgent" reversal of the ban, so that their trade is not affected.

The BBC Radio 4's The World at One programme pointed to how Australia, New Zealand and Japan dealt with the problem using vapour heat treatment and asked the EU also to follow such methods.

The import ban could spell disaster for many growers who are dependent on exports, an e-petition on the UK government's website said.

The European Commission said the unanimous vote to bring in the ban followed "significant shortcomings" in the certification system of such products exported to the EU.

It said "there was a high number of such consignments being intercepted at arrival in the EU with quarantine pests, mainly insects, like non-European fruit flies".

The EC says such pests were found in 207 consignments of fruits and vegetables from India imported into the EU in 2013.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the pests posed no risk to public health but insects such as the tobacco whitefly, which can carry over 100 harmful viruses, could threaten tomato and cucumber crops.

Environment Minister Lord de Mauley said, "India is a key trading partner and these temporary restrictions affect a tiny percentage of the successful business we conduct with them.

"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."