Use of plastic crates suspended for a month
Dec 15, 2011

The government yesterday gave a grace period of one month for the implementation of the new law on the use of plastic crates for transporting vegetables and fruits, Minister Johnston Fernando said yesterday.

The decision was taken after a meeting between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and representatives of traders’ and farmers associations at Temple Trees. The meeting had lasted till late evening.

However, the proposed law will not apply, even after this grace period is over, to the transportation of several varieties of vegetable – namely, such as beetroot, aubergine, radish, cabbage, ladies fingers, spring onions and princess bean. The President had exempted these products on a request by farmers and traders. The new gazette notification, excluding these varieties of vegetables, is to be released soon.

“Everyone agreed to implement this law after one month,” the minister said. The meeting was attended by Internal Trade Minister Johnston Fernando and Ministry Secretary S. Sirisena. The vegetable and fruit trade is expected to get back to normal very soon.

With protests in Colombo and the suburbs intensifying yesterday over the law necessitating the use of plastic crates to transport vegetables and fruits, it was agreed, at the Dambulla Economic Centre, by the security forces, traders and farmers to continue with the customary form of packaging.

The three-day crisis has caused a severe countrywide shortage of fruits and vegetables with the prices of these items skyrocketing.

However, Internal Trade Minister Johnston Fernando vowed to stick to his decision to make it compulsory to transport fruits and vegetables in plastic crates for the greater good of the consumer.

Protest marches in Colombo Fort turned violent with the protesters nearly clashing with the police. Protests were held at Thambuttegama, Nuwara Eliya, Ratnapura and Bandarawela.

111 Brigade Commander W.G.H.A.S. Bandara told Daily Mirror that the tense situation which prevailed in Dambulla returned to normal after he spoke to traders, farmers and political leaders in Dambulla.

“We decided to allow farmers and traders to use gunny bags to transport vegetables, fruits and other perishable food items for the time being until a more acceptable solution was reached.”

Meanwhile, Internal Trade Ministry Secretary Sunil Sirisena said plastic crates for the transport of vegetables and fruits were introduced following a recommendation by the Food Security Committee and the Post-harvest Technology Institute after they had analysed the huge losses on vegetables and fruits during their transport. “The introduction of plastic crates is not something new and abrupt. The farmers and traders had been made aware of the new system and its benefits,” Mr. Sirisena said.he rejected allegations that plastic crates were introduced to allow someone connected to the ministry to make money.

Also hit by the vegetable shortage were the canteens in the parliamentary complex. As a result they were not on the menus in the parliamentary canteens which supply meals to the MPS and their guests, government officials, parliamentary employees and journalists. The Army was deployed in Dambulla and Bandarawela following Tuesday’s violent protests.

Police said two buses, and several other vehicles, including two belonging to the police, were damaged by the protesters. Angry farmers and traders had reportedly stoned passing vehicles and attacked police personnel during the clashes.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka