Officials of the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of the European Union (EU) are slated to visit India during the first week of September. Their first stop would be Mumbai, where they are set to review the phytosanitary measures put in place by India for fruits and vegetables.
The visit comes in the wake of the import ban imposed by the EU in the last week of March on alphonso mangoes, brinjal, bitter gourd, snake gourd and taro from India, with effect from May 1. During the visit, India will pitch for lifting of the ban which, exporters claim, has dented the country’s image globally.
The ban was imposed citing significant shortcomings in the phytosanitary certification system, after 207 consignments of fruits and vegetables from India were found to be contaminated by pests, including fruit flies.
“The FVO officials will first go to Mumbai and then to Gujarat. They will review the system put in place by Apeda to see if the ban can be lifted this year itself. India has strongly told them that the phytosanitary certification is being done only through Apeda-approved packhouses,” an official said.
Alphonso mangoes account for 50 per cent of the total mango export. In 2013-14, India exported 3,933 tonnes worth Rs 5,022 lakh of mangoes, while it exported 3,890 tonnes worth Rs 3,559 lakh in 2012-13.
Even before the ban, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda), in a notification on March 14, had asked all exporters to route shipments of fresh fruits and vegetables through APEDA-approved pack houses, where it would be monitored by plant quarantine personnel. The notification was effective from April 1 but, the source said, even before monitoring the effectiveness of the new system, the EU banned five items from India.
The Apeda, following the ban, told the EU about the new system and also informed it about the interim arrangement, wherein an exclusive area for inspection and certification work “has been established at the Mumbai airport from where major export to the EU countries takes place”.
As per an audit report by the FVO last year, India did take note of quality concerns raised in its export of plant and plant products, and had informed the intergovernmental body last August about the new quality control mechanism to be effective from April 1.