To take up the issue with EU working group at Tuesday’s meeting in Brussels

India is challenging the European Union’s move to ban exports of fresh mangoes and four other vegetables.

The Government will take up the issue of the ban strongly at the India-EU SPS-TBT (Sanitary and Phytosanitary and Technical Barriers to Trade) working group meeting scheduled in Brussels on Tuesday.

“We see the ban purely as a trade restricting measure. Since India has already assured the EU that its improved SPS certification system will be in place from April 1, there is no justification behind the ban,” a Government official told Business Line.

Earlier this week, EU declared that it would ban Indian mango and four other vegetables including egg plants and gourds from May 1 on the grounds that they contained harmful organisms.

“When we had agreed to put up a system of phytosanitary inspection from April 1, they should have waited to see how the new system worked,” an official said terming the EU ban as “too pre-emptive and pre-mature”.

APEDA route

From April 1, exporters have been advised to route all fresh fruits and vegetable shipments to EU only through APEDA-recognised pack houses, wherein inspections, examinations and testing of export consignments will be conducted under the supervision of plant quarantine personnel.

The National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) will not issue phytosanitary certificate for export consignments that are not routed through APEDA recognised poly houses.

EU had raised serious concerns on the import of mangoes and vegetables since last April to which India assured to provide safe and pest-free export of fresh fruits and vegetables.

While the Indian team that is to participate in the Brussels meeting initially included only Commerce Ministry officials, it has now been expanded and has representation from the Agriculture Ministry and the NPPO as well.

“India will make it clear that it will not tolerate unreasonable restrictions on its exports and such unilateral measures could lead to retaliatory measures,” the official said. The EU’s hard stand on the matter could also be a way to put pressure on India to go easy on new standards and certification requirements imposed by the country on imports of items such as steel, tyres and tubes and electronics.

By putting India on the back-foot on the issue of fruits and vegetable exports, the EU may be hoping to gain some leeway in the areas of its interest, the official added.

Exporters are baffled at EU’s latest move to ban Indian shipments. Though in value terms, the export of Indian mangoes and vegetables to EU runs into a few hundred crores, the exporting community is worried about the larger ramifications as any ban would hurt the image in other countries.

“It is ironical that the EU ban has come at a time when inspection measures have improved in the past two months,” sources said.

Indian mangoes exported to EU are mainly targeted at the non-resident Indian populace. “We are yet to break into the mainstream population, though retailers such as Tecso and others have started to stock and display the Indian mangoes in their stores,” Kaushal Khakhar, CEO at Mumbai-based Kay Bee Exports said.

Mango exports to EU were estimated at 4,000 tonnes valued ₹50 crore in 2012-13.

(This article was published on March 28, 2014)
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