EU mango ban to hit UK small retailers

Vidya Ram London | Updated on November 25, 2017

Bitter sweet: Vendors at the Crawford market in Mumbai on Wednesday.The EU ban will not only hit Indian exporters, but also small retailers inthe UK. - Photo: PAUL NORONHA   -  Business Line

Retailers in the UK are bracing themselves for the EU ban on mangoes to kick in from May 1, with warnings about the devastating effect that it could have on business and the UK work force at a busy period.

Back in March, the EU announced its intention to introduce the ban – set to last until the end of next year, following the discovery of pests in a number of consignments and “significant shortcomings” in the certification system for the product. While Indian mangoes are exported across the region, Britain constitutes the vast majority, accounting for over 90 per cent to the EU.

The ban could particularly hurt independent retailers for whom the mango season can be a lucrative business at an otherwise quiet period, says Monica Bhandari from wholesaler Fruity Fresh, which imports around 40 tonnes of mangoes a week at the height of the season, and who has been leading a prominent campaign against the ban.

“We are not talking about big supermarkets but independent shops who sell them by the box. It’s a high volume item and it helps keep the shops going.”

Anil Mudumbi, founder of the successful UK-based online retailer, points out that many shops hire workers in anticipation of the busy season.

“There are hundreds of temporary jobs created in the UK across all independent retailers. While it has taken time for the Indian Government to satisfy the EU criteria, it is ordinary people who are impacted – businesses like us and people who enjoy the mangoes,” he said. “ Businesses like ours’ will be forced to let go of staff who are brought in to help with sales, packing the orders, deliveries.”

The cost to retailers could reach around £200,000 a business, estimates British Member of Parliament Keith Vaz, who has filed an early day motion in parliament calling for the British government to reverse the ban.

Opponents of the ban have pointed to the fact that other countries such as New Zealand, Japan and Australia continue to import mangoes, so long as treatments such as hot water immersion, are used.

“The ban is a knee jerk reaction that could have been worked out with a simple solution,” says Bhandari.

The British government’s response has so far offered little comfort with DEFRA, the relevant department, insisting Indian mangoes were replaceable with product from elsewhere.

While Britain’s vast Indian-origin and NRI population constitutes the bulk of the customer base, retailers have noted a significant rise in interest from the wider British population, as top chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi have incorporated it into their dishes. Both London and the city of Leicester held mango festivals last year.

Says Mudumbi: “Some say they are replaceable but Indian mangoes are very specific for the people who buy them.”

Published on April 30, 2014

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