LONDON (TIP): UK has seized two large consignments of mangoes from India in April containing the deadly tobacco whitefly which carries over 100 harmful viruses with it. In an exclusive interview to TOI, UK’s department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra), which voted to put the ban on Indian mangoes into EU in place from Thursday, told TOI that the whitefly is at present alien in EU.
EU has protected zone status against the tobacco whitefly – meaning the species don’t exist anywhere in the union. EU therefore faces serious threat of the fly being introduced through contaminated Indian mangoes. “The tobacco whitefly would be very damaging to UK salad crops if introduced. Tomato crops are particularly susceptible and 100% yield losses have been seen in some outbreaks in Israel.
It also emerged that the two consignments confiscated did undergo vapour heat treatment to rid it off pests in India but it didn’t work,” DEFRA told TOI. The DEFRA official added “These temporary restrictions are important to protect our home-grown salad crops, an industry worth an annual £321 million, from potential pests and diseases. We are working closely with our Indian and European counterparts to resolve the issue and resume trade in these select products as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile an official of the European Commission told TOI from Brussels that it has asked India to steam the mangoes before exporting it to EU. Frederic Vincent from the European Commission told TOI “Experts say steaming mangoes could rid them off the pests. India wasn’t keen to do so saying it would change the way the mangoes look. We have been involved in extensive discussions with India in 2013 about ways to de contaminate these mangoes. But the talks went nowhere. It was such a serious threat that not a single EU country opposed the ban”.
Vincent added “India will have to correct the deficiencies as regards their official controls to ensure that commodities exported to the EU fulfill the EU phytosanitary import requirements. India will then send us guarantees on the correct implementation of the Indian measures. The EU’s Food and Veterinary Office will then verify the good implementation of these guarantees on-thespot at the end of 2014 through a team that will be sent to India. A decision on the lifting of the ban would depend on the outcome of the FVO audit.
There is no precise timeline: it is up to Indian authorities to ensure that their products fulfill our food safety requirements”. DEFRA minister Owen Patterson is expected to talk to India’s high commissioner to UK Ranjan Mathai on how to resolve the impasse. The commission said the decision to ban mango import had to be taken due to a high number of such consignments being intercepted at arrival in the EU with quarantine pests, mainly insects, like non- European fruit flies.