Will discuss mango issue with new Indian PM: David Cameron

Written by PTI | London | Updated: May 8 2014, 03:21am hrs
MangoThe UK imports around 6.3-million pounds worth of Indian mangoes per year. Reuters
British Prime Minister David Cameron today said he will discuss the ongoing import ban on Indian mangoes with the country's new Prime Minister when he makes his official phone call next week.

Cameron was responding to a question by senior Indian-origin Labour MP Keith Vaz in the House of Commons here.

Vaz noted that he would have his first conversation with any new Indian leader after the results of the Indian elections are announced on May 16.

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Cameron responded: "This is a very serious issue. The European Union has to look on the basis of the science and the evidence and there are concerns about particular cross contamination in terms of British crops and British interests so we have to make sure that is got right.

"But I understand how strongly he feels and how strongly the Indian community in this country feels and indeed I look forward to discussing it with the new Indian prime minister."

Vaz, who has been campaigning over the issue and raised the subject at the weekly Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons, urged Cameron to reverse the ban which would cost firms millions of pounds.

"Will he do his best to reverse this ban so we can keep the special relationship with India which his predecessors and we have worked so hard to maintain, and so we can have our delicious mangoes once again," he said.

Cameron thanked the Leicester East MP for the special delivery of Alfonso mangoes at Downing Street last week as part of his efforts to raise awareness on the issue of the EU's decision to ban imports of the fruit.

The "temporary ban", supported by the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), will remain in force until December 2015 after authorities in Brussels found consignments infested with fruit flies that they fear could damage European salad crops.

The ban, which began last Thursday, also includes aubergines, two types of squash, and a type of leaf used in Indian cooking.

It was brought in after non-European food pests were found in 207 shipments of fruit and vegetables in 2013.

Indian mango exporters said they have put checks in place and have approached the authorities in Brussels to try to get the ban lifted.

The UK imports around 6.3-million pounds worth of Indian mangoes per year.

Similar types of mango imported from Pakistan and Bangladesh have not been banned.

Meanwhile, an e-petition titled 'Reverse Mango Import Ban' on the UK government website has crossed over 2,000 signatures as part of a campaign warning that the ban will severely impact importers and distributors across Britain.