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India threatens WTO action over EU mango ban

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(NEW DELHI) - India on Friday threatened to drag the European Union to the World Trade Organization over its ban on mango imports.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma warned the EU's decision to slap the ban on import of the highly prized Alphonso mangoes, known as the "king of fruits", could have "very negative fallout" on trade ties.

Sharma said he had written to EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht urging him to overturn the "arbitrary" import ban on mangoes as well as four vegetables from India including bitter gourd and eggplant.

"We do hope that the EU will see sense," Sharma told reporters in New Delhi.

He urged the 28-nation EU not to "precipitate the situation any further, which would lead us to go to the WTO".

The Geneva-based WTO deals with trade disputes.

In March, the EU plant health care committee said it would impose the ban after finding pests in 207 Indian consignments of fruits and vegetables.

The EU said it was acting to tackle what it called "significant shortcomings" in India's certification system.

It noted that a high number of Indian consignments contained "pests, mainly insects, like non-European fruit flies".

India, the world's largest mango exporter, sells up to 70,000 tonnes of the fruit globally.

The ban, which came into effect Thursday, has led to a mango surplus in Indian markets, driving down prices to fruit lovers' delight.

However, dismayed agricultural officials have warned of a "supply glut" and the effect of the fall in prices on poor farmers.

The mango ban further sours faltering India-EU free trade talks which began in 2007.

The negotiations have been beset by differences over intellectual property rights and other issues.

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