After the widespread confusion on packaging standards that prevailed during the last crop season, orchardists are now seeking greater clarity regarding the norms. They want the government to familiarize them about the new packaging standards well before the season begins.
Last year the state government had proposed to introduce universal cartons for apples 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 23 kg limit for telescopic cartons citing the huge difference in prices of universal and existing packaging materials.government had issued an order asking apple growers to adhere to the new packaging standards it had introduced.
Most growers were not aware about the new norms and were also discouraged by traders to adopt them. The government eventually failed to fully implement its decision and to protect farmers who were complying with the norms. This year the government has again asked all orchardists to comply with the new apple packaging standards and has also instructed the horticulture department to notify all growers about the norms.
The apple crop, which accounts for about 4% of the state economy, is mainly grown in Shimla, Kinnaur, Kullu, Mandi and Chamba districts,
Earlier last November growers had agreed to use universal cartons in order to standardize packaging. After a few of them had expressed concern over their cost the government promised to address the issue. The government-and for that matter most growers - wanted to cap the upper limit of weight and standardize the apple packaging.
Universal cartons are indeed the only option after the government's efforts to standardize packaging in telescopic cartons were unsuccessful during the last harvesting season. However, the government later did an about turn on introducing universal cartons citing their high pricing and said all apple growers would be informed about packaging norms on telescopic cartons that are currently in use.
Yaman Sirkeck, an apple grower from Kotgarh, said most growers were ready to comply with the standardized packaging norms but the government should first ensure uniformity on their use in the market. "Last year growers who adhered to the norms got lower prices for their produce from traders. The government should clear the air over the norms," he added.
Meanwhile, horticulture director Gurudev Singh said all apple growers will be informed about the apple packaging norms. "Standardisation of apple packaging is necessary and the government will protect the interests of growers," he added.
23 kg for full box
The government has notified a weight of 23kg for a full standard box and 12 kg for a half box of apples. A full box should only contain 80 "extra large" apples or 270 'pittu' (smaller) apples while a half box must have 135 'pittu' and 40 "extra large" apples. A standard large box cannot have more than half a dozen trays while a half box can have up to three trays.