Trade relations between the European Union and India seem to be descending into petty bureaucratic wrangling despite public proclamations about the importance of the relationship between the EU and one of the world’s biggest economies.
Earlier this year the EU banned Alphonso Mango imports from India citing the presence of ‘quarantine threats” in several shipments from the sub-continent.
In what appears to be a tit-for-tat response to the ban, Indian officials have begun to hold up consignments of whiskey, wine and other alcoholic beverages at Indian ports and airports.
According to reports the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) recently unveiled new regulations that require EU exporters – who have been supplying the hugely lucrative Indian market for decades – to disclose the individual ingredients contained in their products.
Some whiskey and winemakers have balked at the regulation and refused to comply, saying most consumers are patently aware of the ingredients that go into a vast majority of alcoholic beverages.
Indian authorities in turn say that some drinks do contain preservatives and even “caramel” which must be declared.
One FSSAI official – displaying not a hint of his love for bureaucracy – told the Economic Times: “These are India’s legal requirements that need to be complied with if anyone wants to sell in the market”.
The Times reports that an EU delegation is headed to New Delhi for talks on the matter.
Customs officials say those consignments that have been held up represent a small portion of the total imports which tend to slow down, particularly during India’s hot summer months.
The battle over whiskey and wine is the latest battle between New Delhi and the 27-member European Union.
Apart from Alphonso Mangoes, a hugely popular fruit among the Diaspora communities, the EU ban on food imports extended to the taro plant, bitter gourd and snake gourd.
The ban led to an outcry among traders and consumers alike.
Diaspora champion Keith Vaz described it as “Euro-nonsense and bureaucracy gone mad”.