Question for written answer to the Commission – Mara Bizzotto (NI)
24th July 2014
Subject: India’s boycott of European oil and wine
India is currently implementing a tough trade protection measure and is boycotting certain European food products. The Indian authorities have, in fact, decided to enforce more stringently their rules on food fraud and labelling. Indian Customs have therefore seized, and blocked in their ports, tonnes of food and alcohol from Europe because their labels do not indicate the precise content of salt, as prescribed by Indian health legislation. In Mumbai alone, to give but one example, 35 containers full of Italian and Spanish olive oil and hundreds of bottles of wine have, for two whole months, been crammed into warehouses that are not suitable for preserving the products, which by now will have almost certainly perished. This restrictive interpretation of customs regulations by the Indian authorities, to the detriment of European products, was adopted after the EU halted and then banned imports of the Alphonso variety of mango.
Can the Commission therefore answer the following questions:
- Will it take action to resolve the situation and protect free competition?
- Will it also provide financial assistance to European producers who have suffered damage?
Answer given by Mr De Gucht on behalf of the Commission – 3rd September 2014
The Commission is aware of the problems European food exporters face in India due to stringent enforcement of Indian food labelling and food safety requirements. The Indian authorities appeared to have started this stringent enforcement in September 2013 by discontinuing the acceptance of stickers for labelling of mandatory information. Since February 2014 Indian food safety authorities also require that labels of spirits list ingredients. In addition to the blocked shipments of spirits, the Commission is aware that some European wine shipments were not released by Indian authorities due to labelling deficiencies. Moreover some European olives, preserved by oxidation, were not cleared initially as Indian food safety standards do not include this preservation method that results in a lower salt content than usual for other types of preserved olives.
The Commission has taken up these issues since the autumn of 2013 and has raised it at several occasions with Indian authorities, including at Commissioner’s level, and at plenary sessions of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The Commission continues to raise this issue with Indian authorities to try to find solution while noting that food products imported into India must comply with the Indian requirements for labelling and food safety.
The Commission does not provide financial assistance to European exporters that may have been impacted by the requirements of Indian authorities.
(Source: European Parliament)