Though the state government had planned to introduce universal cartons for apples last year to check overpackaging after failing to enforce uniform packaging standards, it may now drag its feet on implementing the move in the coming harvesting season. The government is likely to fix a 24 kg limit for telescopic cartons citing the huge difference in prices of universal and existing packaging materials.
Though the government had imposed a 22 kg limit during the last harvesting season, this time a meeting of apple cultivators is likely to be convened to discuss the issue again. At a convention held last November in Shimla growers had agreed to use universal cartons in order to standardize packaging. After few of them had expressed concern over the cost of universal cartons the government promised to address the issue.
Before gearing up for introducing a bill on implementing the universal carton plan, the government took into consideration the significant difference between prices of universal and telescopic cartons. While the latter cost ` 40-45 per box universal cartons were priced at around `65.
"We want to standardize the apple packaging but we can't bulldoze the carton with high price on farmers," horticulture minister Vidya Stokes said. "Introducing universal cartons are the only way to standardize apple packaging but the price difference is also a factor that needs to be considered seriously," she added.
Recently a meeting was held with the agriculture ministry that had mandate of fruit packaging and decided to set up a marketing standards bureau, as proposed in the new Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act. Since the government would fix a packaging limit, bureau could be given the responsibility to ensure successful implementation of norms.
Prakash Thakur, vice chairman of the Himachal Pradesh horticultural produce marketing committee, who was instrumental in evolving a consensus among apple cultivators on standardized packaging norms, said standardization was the need of the hour and the government would ensure protection of apple cultivators' rights besides enforcement of packaging standards. "We'll consult growers before taking final call on packaging material," he added.
Apple growers who had been demanding clarity on government's stands on the issue, said whatever the government would decide should be announced well before the season. "A chaos like last year should not be created this time as it led to huge losses to the growers especially those who adhered to norms," Harsh Chauhan, an orchardist ,said.