By Ranjana Narayan
India’s prized Alphonso mangoes will be treated with “hot water” as part of procedures to remove any contaminants like fruit flies before being exported to Europe, especially Britain, where they have a large market, a top EU trade official said.
Maurizio Cellini, First Counsellor, Head of Trade and Economic Affairs team of the European Union to India, said that among the procedures India has to abide by to export mangoes to the 28-member bloc is of treating fruit with hot water.
Cellini also said that while the mango has been allowed for export, the ban on four other Indian products – eggplant, bitter gourd (karela), taro plant (arbi) and snake gourd (chichinda) – has not been lifted.
The EU had last May slapped a ban on the Indian mango and the vegetables following concerns over contamination, mainly from non-European fruit flies. The European Commission voted to lift the ban on Indian mangoes in late January and the final decision was taken on Valentine’s Day Feb 14.
Cellini said a number of controls have been put in place by India, including some conditions for the packaging.
“There has been a commitment by India to treat mangoes with hot water, which was an additional requirement which is apparently important in order to guarantee that the products are free of contaminants like mosquitoes, insects which may come with the fruit,” Cellini said.
“I know that Indian mangoes are very popular in Britain, so there will be strong export to Britain; other European countries import mangoes from Africa and Brazil,” he added.
Regarding the other four vegetables, he said India has not been able to provide the necessary guarantees yet that the packaging and treatment would be done in a way to eliminate the insects.
“Our experts came to India and made an inspection a few months ago. The result of the inspection was that things were making progress for the mango but for the other products they were not there at the right point,” he added.
On the dragging India-EU free trade agreement negotiations that have been going on since 2007 but are stuck on certain niggling issues, Cellini said that EU is fully committed to negotiations and if completed “it would be a boost to the European Union and to India alike.
“There are some difficult points still to discuss and we need to get back to the table and see whether India is willing to consider certain sensitive points of the negotiation which for the EU are important.
“If we see positive signals, I’m sure the negotiations can continue and we are hoping to reach a mutually satisfactory solution in a short time,” he added.
The negotiations are stuck over the EU demand for duty cut on European automobiles, auto components and wines and spirits. India has been asking for greater access to the European markets, mainly the UK and Germany for its professionals.
Cellini also said the EU can contribute to the Narendra Modi government’s initiatives like Make in India, Smart Cities, infrastructure and renewable energy.
“Europe is very advanced; We have the right technology and right solutions and we think cooperation in this area could be mutually beneficial,” he said.
On the Modi government’s Make in India initiative, Cellini said the initiative signals improvement in ease of doing business, in transparency and in predictability, reforms in taxation system, and improvement in the general business climate.
“If this is done then I am pretty sure the EU companies, multinationals and small and medium enterprises will be encouraged to come to India to do business. It is important that these reforms become a reality and are translated into real facts and realised and that life for entrepreneurs becomes easier in India. If that happens I’m sure that activity of EU business will increase in India,” Cellini said.
He said the government’s initiatives signal good business sentiment. “Business sentiment is a good thing, but you still have to be convinced to make the investment and to take action; probably we are not there yet but the sentiment is certainly positive and has improved, compared to a few months ago.
“The outlook is good, let’s wait another few months maybe in order to see all this becomes real; I think it takes some time, the government is not in place for a very long time.. Reforms are not done in a day,” he added.