Labour MP Keith Vaz has slammed a decision by the European Union to ban the import of a number of Indian fruit and vegetable products after several consignments were found contaminated by pests, including fruit flies.
The order will temporarily ban the importation of Alphonso Mangoes – a popular treat in Britain with sales topping six million annually – as well as bitter gourd, snake gourd, several varieties of squash, patra leaves – popular among immigrants from Western India – and Parwal, often called the ‘green potato’ in India.
The European Commission said the pests were found in consignments shipped in from the subcontinent in 2013 and could pose a significant threat to EU agriculture.
Mr Vaz, however, described the ban as “bureaucracy gone mad”.
“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.
British importers, who ship in more than 90% of all Indian mangoes sent to the 28-member EU, have also voiced their concerns.
Monica Bhandari from Fruity Fresh Ltd, the UK’s largest mango importer, told the Economic Times: “The European Commission meets once in however many months to decide on a host of issues. Brussels doesn’t care, because most of the imports are into the UK. Why would they? If the EU can ban products like this overnight, then this is a slippery slope to preventing all products from outside the EU. That isn’t positive for trade relations.”
Importers also say that whilst fruit flies and other similar pests could potentially harm indigenous crops, the issue can be dealt with using irradiation, a process used to preserve food.
Britain’s agriculture agency Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) is reportedly supporting the ban on the items, which represent roughly five percent of all fruit and vegetable imports into the EU from india.
A revision of the ban will take place before December 31, 2015.
The UK imports nearly 16 million Indian mangoes of several varieties from across India.
By far the most popular of them – given its rich texture and sweetness – is the Alphonso Mango: so popular in fact that London Mayor Boris Johnson backed a massive promotional event dedicated to the Alphonso at Trafalgar Square in August.