After having failed to enforce packaging standards during the last harvesting season, apple growers horticulturists in the state have finally managed to work out a consensus over introduction of universal cartons for packaging.
At a time when horticulturalists are facing several problems to market their produce, the government is contemplating a move to introduce universal cartons to check overpackaging.
At a convention organised on Wednesday by the government which was attended by horticulturists, traders and government officials, apple growers unanimously approved the universal carton system but also urged the government to enforce it in letter and spirit unlike in last year's apple season.
The government earlier changed the rules and asked growers to adhere to the 22 kilogram packing in telescopic cartons but failed to enforce the regulations, adversely affecting growers adhering to the rule Traders discourage 22 kg apple packs as they fetch lower prices.
At today's convention, Rajpal Chauhan, an orchardist, said universal cartons would ensure quality of products is maintained till they reach consumers, "Standardized packaging will benefit the apple grower and only a few selfish traders have been opposing the system. The government should go ahead with universal cartons and ensure its proper enforcement," he added
Growers also criticized the government for its failure to ensure proper implementation of the regulations. Though orchardists get better prices for an overpacked apple box it actually benefits traders and is also giving a bad name to fruits grown in Himachal as the produce gets damaged when overpacked.
"Boxes are meant for 22 kilograms of apples but growers exceed the limit and pack over 30 kilograms. It not only benefits the traders but also increases the chance of the fruits being damaged," said Jagdish Makhaik, an old apple trader. Makhaik, who hails from the apple producing belt of Kotgarh, said the government should also encourage small apple packs.
Meanwhile, Horticulture Minister Vidya Stokes said the government wanted to get feedback from growers and other stakeholders before the introducing new packaging materials.
The Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP) had designed standard cartons for large, medium and small grades of apple, besides extra-small and six-layer packing, known as 'pittu'. IIP had also specified the paper quality and thickness and material used for universal cartons will be the same as used for corrugated board of 5-ply to 7-ply packs and it would not be possible to overpack the carton.