Traders decry Sikkim’s move to ban sale of non-organic vegetables, fruits from April 1
The Sikkim government’s decision to prohibit sale of some non-organic vegetables and fruits in the state from Sunday has drawn the ire of traders, who fear the move, apart from affecting their businesses, will also lead to “food crisis.”
Sikkim was declared an organic state in January 2016 after it made the use of chemical pesticides a criminal offence. To give a further push to its organic-farming experiment, the state government headed by five-time chief minister Pawan Chamling had earlier announced a blanket ban on entry of selected non-organic vegetables and fruits into the state from April 1. Later, it modified the decision saying it would not prevent entry of the non-organic items into the state, but would not allow their sale.
“We will not check consignments and confiscate non-organic products entering Sikkim, but we will not allow their sale in our markets from April 1,” said secretary of Sikkim’s horticulture department Khorlo Bhutia.
With the ban coming into effect in another 24 hours, traders in the state are in a defiant mood.
“We will continue to bring non-organic farm produce and sell them. Since the government failed to understand our problems, we will continue to do what we have been doing for decades,” said vice president of the All Sikkim Traders Association (ASTA) Lakpa Sherpa.
“Sikkim’s farmers cannot meet the total local demand for fruits and vegetables. This demand goes up during tourist seasons. More than 95% of fruits and vegetables consumed in Sikkim comes from Siliguri in West Bengal,” said Sherpa. “The ban can only lead to a crisis,” he added.
A wholesaler of fruits, associated with the Lall Bazaar Traders Association in Gangtok said: “The state capital alone requires 35,000 kilos of potato and 50000 kilos of banana each day. Local farmers simply cannot meet the demand.”
Traders in Sikkim feel that most vegetables will soon be in short supply. Only organic cabbage, cauliflower and beans may meet the local demand since these are produced in large quantity in the state.
“But the difference in price is huge. Organic cauliflower is being sold at ₹120 a kilo against ₹20-25 for the non-organic variant,” said a trader at Gangtok’s Lall Bazaar.
Traders in Siliguri are equally worried.
Tapan Saha, former president of Siliguri Onion and Potato Merchants Association said: “Though the Sikkim government has the right to do what it feels will be good for the state, the ban on sale of non-organic products will affect many lives.”
“More than 70 tons of vegetables and fruits are sent to the hilly state every day from Siliguri. It will take Sikkim a long time to become self-sufficient in organic farming,” Saha said, adding “hundreds of traders and wage labourers in Siliguri will suffer due to this ban.”
Sikkim government, however, said there would be no shortage.
“We have adequate supply of organic fruits and vegetables in our state. We are promoting our farmers and the move is not meant to affect anyone,” Bhutia pointed out.
Non-organic products to be prohibited for sale in Sikkim include maize, beans, brinjal, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, capsicum, carrot, chayote, cucumber, drumstick, okra, leafy vegetables, spinach, pea, radish, tomato, pointed gourd, banana, guava, mango, orange, papaya, ginger, green chili and turmeric.