Revised rules, but flexibility in enforcing them, say authorities

Transport of vegetables in crates

The revised regulations on the use of crates for transport of vegetables comes into effect from midnight today, but the government will concentrate more on educating the farmers and traders on the benefits of the system rather than taking tough action on those who break the rules, Consumer Affairs Secretary Sunil Sirisena told the Sunday Times.

Dambulla traders along with UNP Central Provincial Council member Sanjeeva Kaviratne hold a pooja at Dambulla Rajama Vihare Vishnu Devale seeking divine intervenion against the plastic crate rule. Pic by Kanchana Ariyadasa

The latest gazette notification issued said the Consumer Affairs Authority has directed all transporters, distributors and traders of locally produced vegetables and fruits listed should use containers made out of plastic, hard paper or wood when collecting, storing and transporting these items.

He said that according to the revised regulations crates should be used for the transport of tomatoes, thibbatu, carrots, bitter gourd, thumba karavila, cauliflower, bell pepper capsicum, lettuce, spinach, capsicum , cucumber, papaw/papaya, guava, avocado, oranges, pomegranate, grapes, pears, mangosteen, strawberry and passion fruit.

Mr. Sirisena said that so far no decision has been taken regarding beans and long-beans. In the previous list there were 24 varieties of vegetables including brinjals, ladies fingers, raabu, bitter gourd and green chillies.

From the previous list of fruits to be transported mangoes, gadu-guda and rambutan have been left out. The Sunday Times learns also that the Government will relax the law for the farmers when transporting their produce from the farm to the main trading point, but would be strict when the items are being transported from the trade centre to main markets in lorries.

Mr. Sirisena said the authorities will not take a confrontational attitude but try to educate the farmers and the traders about the benefits of the system to make it popular. The Agriculture Department has already distributed leaflets pointing out the benefits of transporting the vegetables and fruits in crates. Last week all District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries were made aware about the benefits of using crates for transport of vegetables and fruits.

However our correspondents in the areas where vegetable cultivation takes place said that although the scheme comes into effect from today, they were still not fully aware even about the list of items which need be transported in crates.

Reports from Nuwara Eliya said that though many were still not aware about the implementation of the programme some 2,500 crates had been purchased over the last week by traders and farmers.
One of the other issues among the traders was the re-transportation of the crates back to them.
“We will be incurring a loss when we transport the crates back to our areas as the lorries usually carry other goods on their return. Though the government said that a mechanism will be worked out we have not heard anything about it,” trader Nihal Wanasinha said.

In Puttalam farmers said that they were not fully aware of the revised scheme, but would be acting accordingly when the regulations are made known to them. Despite wide publicity given that vegetables should be transported in plastic crates the regulations clearly state that hard paper or wooden crates could be used.

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