UK Politics

David Cameron to discuss mango ban with new Indian PM

Alphonso mangoes being sold in Mumbai
Image caption Alphonso mangoes, shown on sale in Mumbai, are popular in the UK

UK Prime Minister David Cameron says he is "looking forward" to discussing the EU ban on Indian mango imports with the country's new prime minister.

Mr Cameron said the ban was a "serious issue", there were concerns about possible cross-contamination and "we must make sure that that is got right".

But he told MPs he understood the strength of feeling on the matter.

Labour MP Keith Vaz had urged him to reverse the ban, which he said was harming hundreds of businesses.

Mr Vaz, who raised the subject at Prime Minister's Questions, said the ban, which came into force last week, would cost firms millions of pounds.

Media captionKeith Vaz claims hundreds of businesses in Leicester, and across the UK, will suffer millions of pounds in losses with an import ban on Indian mangoes

He said "there was no consultation with this house and no vote by British ministers" and noted that Mr Cameron would have his first conversation with India's new prime minister next week.

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

Mr Cameron began his answer by saying he was grateful for the box of alphonso mangoes delivered to Number 10 by Mr Vaz just before the ban came into force.

He added: "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 that 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."

The ban, which began on 1 May, 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 £6.3m worth of Indian mangoes per year. Similar types of mango imported from Pakistan and Bangladesh have not been banned.

Premium Alphonso mangoes, which are popular in the UK, were in season as the ban came into force.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which voted to put the ban in place, is working with Indian authorities and the European Commission to try to get the ban lifted.

The ban includes imports of Momordica and Snake Gourd squashes, and Patra leaves, which are used in a dish called Patra.

India is currently in the process of holding its month-long general election. Votes are due to be counted on 16 May.

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