Hope for end of export ban as European Union team finds better checks

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 29 2014, 07:30am hrs
A check by a technical team from the European Union (EU) has found significant improvement in India's quarantine inspection facilities for export of agricultural goods, which could boost export potential in the future.

Official sources told FE that following the ban imposed on import of Alphonso mangoes and some other vegetables by the EU in May because of presence of fruit fly and other quarantine pests in many consignments, a team from EU's Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) of EU visited a number of pack-houses between September 2 and 12.

A senior official said the team found improvement in security and traceability of phytosanitary certification, and fruits and vegetables to Europe are currently sourced from registered producers and forwarded for official inspection through approved pack houses, which have been designated for this purpose by the National Plant Protection Organisation.

The official acknowledged that, following a favourable report by the EU team, it could consider lifting the export ban on India's premium Alphonso mangoes, brinjal, bitter gourd, snake gourd and the taro plant.

Sources said the EU team found that Apeda-approved pack-houses located across Kolkata, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kochi and other cities are appropriately equipped for export purpose and dedicated teams of inspectors were established to improve the quality of checks.

However, officials from EU have drawn attention towards minor shortcomings in implementation of checks in consignments, which is leading to stoppage of many consignments due to presence of fruit flies in commodities which are not subjected to ban.

As per the data, the country's export of fruits and vegetables during April-July 2014 has declined marginally to R2,625 crore compared with R2,654 crore reported in the same period last fiscal. This is not withstanding a ban on five fruits and vegetables imposed by the EU.

In 2013-14, India exported fruits and vegetables worth R8,760 crore.

Alphonso mangoes accounted for 50% of the country's total mango export. In 2013-14, India exported 3,933 tonne worth R50.22 crore, while it exported 3,890 tonne worth R35.59 crore in 2012-13.

A commerce ministry official said EU accounts for more than 50% of total export of fruits and vegetables from India. The UK is the main destination, followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

Due to enforcement of stringent quality norms, export of fruits and vegetables in the first few months of the current fiscal has not declined sharply, Santosh Sarangi, director, Apeda, said.

The FVO would soon write to each EU member about its findings before a final decision on lifting the ban on import of five fruits and vegetables from India is considered.

A Bangalore-based exporter said EU is keen to 'relook' at the ban on the demand of the trade community within Europe and the efforts put in by the government in the last few months.