The European Union is planning to send an an audit to India in September this year to review the controversy over the quality of Alphonso mango exports from India.
Keith Vaz MP, who is campaigning on the issue, spoke to Lord De Mauley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Natural Environment and Science, on Wednesday to ask for an update on the efforts made by Defra to lift the EU ban on the importation of Alphonso mangoes.
Keith Vaz said:“I was very pleased to hear from the Minister that action is finally being taken to try to overturn the EU ban on the importation of Alphonso mangoes. Lord De Mauley informed me that the EU is planning to send an audit to India in September this year.
“While this is good news, it is clear that the ban will not be lifted before the end of this mango season. We sincerely hope that it will be overturned in time for next season before it can again be allowed to have a disastrous impact on peoples’ livelihoods.I am going to arrange a meeting with the UK’s Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) and urge them to go to India to give support in meeting the guidelines set out by the EU. Britain is India’s best friend in the EU and we must do everything to help.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron is also in favour of lifting sanctions on Indian mangoes. The Prime Minister earlier said: “This is a very serious issue. The European Commission has to consider it on the basis of the science and the evidence. There are concerns about cross-contamination of British crops and interests, so we have to make sure that that is got right. I understand how strongly the right honorable Gentleman and the Indian community in this country feel. Indeed, I look forward to discussing the issue with the new Indian Prime Minister.”
In another development Lord de Mauley hosted a round table meeting at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with representatives of mango and vegetable importers and exporters from the UK and India, National Asian Business Association, Confederation of Indian Industry, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce, Fresh Produce Consortium, Dr Virendra Paul – Deputy Indian High Commissioner, University of Huddersfield and senior regulators from Defra and Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera).
The discussion focused around the sudden ban on Indian Alphonso mangoes and other items of fresh produce by the European Union on 26th March 2014, effective from 1st May 2014.
Defra discussed the increasing levels of infestation and interventions that took place in 2013 and discussed the requirements from the Indian export supply chain and regulatory authorities for improving phytosanitary certification. It was indicated that the ban was put in place as the EU did not find sufficient improvement in phytosanitary certification and regulatory measures by the end of 2013.
The industry representatives, led by Monica Bhandari of Fruity Fresh (Western) Ltd highlighted the sudden nature of the ban and the impact it has had SME’s in the UK and in India, from the growers and farmers, to exporters and importers and small high street retailers.
Ms Ruchi Chaudhari-Mehra, Director of Ruchi Exports (India), who had specially flown in from Mumbai, presented information regarding the change in procedures by the Indian regulators that have been in place since 1st April 2014 for certification and the routing of the products through APEDA pack houses.
Lord de Mauley confirmed that “the British Government values the bilateral trade with India and is willing to support Indian Regulators and the exporters and importers with technical assistance and collaborations with British regulators. The ability to overturn the ban is with the EU commission and such decision will be taken after the FVO visit to India in September 2014. The intention is to work with all the stakeholders to get the processes right so the ban sanctioned till December 2015 is lifted sooner.”