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Pulp friction: Indian mango ban prompts protest in Britain

London (AFP): A ban on European imports of India’s Alphonso mango — prized for its perfumed aroma and buttery flesh — is drawing anger from British Indians, who say the move is unfair and deprives them of one of summer’s sweetest flavours.

The “king of fruits” and other Indian mangoes were banned by the European Union from May 1 after fruit flies which officials said could threaten crops were found in shipments last year.

While a fightback has been launched, many British Indians are resigned to going without their favourite Alphonsos for now, while the businesses who supply them are losing out financially.

Ahmed Khan, working on his stall in Tooting, south London, an area with a large south Asian population, said the move would hit him hard.

“It’s not fair — it’s going to mean we miss out on half our mangoes this year, half our business,” Khan, 55, told AFP.

“Life is too short for politicians to interfere — I hear they are now exporting Alphonsos to Pakistan, because there is a glut and they are very cheap.” Rohit Shah, of nearby Bhavin’s grocers, said the Alphonso, which can be eaten alone or used in everything from lassis to chutney, had no rival in terms of taste.

“It’s the smoothness of the flesh and the unique flavour — the flesh is fibreless which is what makes them so good,” said Shah, 62.

“Even during the time of the British Empire they said they were the best.”

Britain, the former colonial power in India, has the EU’s largest Indian diaspora community. British Indians number around 1.4 million out of a total population of some 60 million.

Citing pressure from disappointed constituents, one lawmaker raised the ban in the House of Commons last week.

Keith Vaz said British citizens consumed 12 million mangoes last year alone and predicted the ban, due to run to December 2015, could cost British businesses over USD 16.8 million.

“The EU has treated an important trading ally, which represents a sixth of the population of the globe, with disrespect,” said Vaz, of the opposition Labour party, in a special debate.

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