Despite tall claims of the state government about enforcement of apple packaging standardisation, over-weight packs are highly visible in the Shimla market.
The government has failed to press in service the required staff and implement its order stipulating that larger apple packs cannot carry more than 22.5 km and smaller packs more than 11 kg. In Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) market, Dhali, over-graded packs are heaped in the yard but hardly any action has been taken against the violators.
However, the government has asked APMC to strictly enforce the ordinance brought on July 11, without consulting the growers of the state. Though standardisation of apple packaging is a good decision taken by the state government, but the time of bringing in the change in the apple packaging and the lack of required infrastructure and preparation to enforce it has made the situation worse for the growers.
Apple harvesting is approaching its peak time and less yield in lower and middle altitude areas and fewer prices for standardised apple boxes have left growers in a tizzy.
APMC may have been toiling hard to enforce the ordinance, but over 805 of apple boxes coming to the market have been reported to be over-graded. An APMC official told Hindustan Times that they were not given proper infrastructure for the enforcement of the ordinance and more strictness would only harm the growers of the state. "There are provisions of financial penalty and imprisonment, but it is not the ultimate goal or solution to the problem," the official said, requesting anonymity.
He also referred to the availability of telescopic cartons in the market, wherein a grower could pack nearly 30 kg of apple. "It is tough to force growers to adhere to standardised packaging in telescopic carton when we don't have proper infrastructure to check and partial enforcement of the law is injustice to the grower community," said a government official requesting anonymity.
Apple grower Kunal Chauhan said that the government has to regulate the market and should encourage the growers adhering to the apple standardisation norms. "But things are quite different in Himachal market. Traders have been discouraging the people adhering to the government norms and fetching higher price to those bringing overgraded packs," added Chauhan.
Standardisation is the need of the hour and also beneficial to the growers but the government also needs to do several other things, besides regulating the market.
Fruit and vegetable growers' association president Harish Chauhan said that since there is no bonus for the growers, why should they adhere to the standardisation norms. "Growers packing apple in 22 km packs are neither getting good prices nor any concession. Besides, they are getting less price for their produce in the market," he said.
However, APMC managing director H S Baweja said that APMC has been putting in efforts to enforce the norms and some of growers and traders have been challaned for flouting norms.
"We are working hard to implement the rules and also educating growers about the benefits. We have been vetting apple prices in the market and will also take strict action if someone found guilty," he added.