Force-Feeding organic comes with confusion If not us, then no one will be allowed to bring veggies f

Gangtok, 01 Apr:

The ban on import of vegetables from outside the State, a disruption which is currently being proposed without the wholesalers and vendors here being served any official communication “in written,” has the sabji markets caught in confusion, unsure of what comes next. The ban which was believed to kick in today now appears to be slated for imposition, seizure and disposal from 04 April onwards, although even this, as per the traders, has been communicated to them only verbally.

Given the finances at stakeof placing bulk orders from suppliers in Siliguri only to run the risk of having consignments “seized and disposed,” as an official informed them today, the traders have decided not to bring any more vegetables from Siliguri until the matter is resolved.

The last shipment of vegetables arrived in Gangtok on 31 Marchit is informed, and this should last, on a stretch, till 04 April when the State action on vegetables from outside will become clearer.

This, and some other decisions, was arrived at today at a meeting convened here at Lall Bazaar by the All Sikkim Traders Association and attended by wholesalers of vegetables and fruits from Gangtok and two wholesalers from Siliguri.

Speaking to media-persons after the meeting, the ASTA vice-president, Lakpa Sherpa, informed that given the confusion over the ban, they have decided to not lift any more vegetables, save potatoes and onions which are apparently exempted from the ban, from Siliguri until the matter was resolved.

Interestingly, a 10 March 2018 Home Department notification announcing the ban, although it did not mention the date from which it was to be imposed, had listed the vegetables which were to be banned from being brought from outside the State.

Be that as it may, a senior Horticulture official who reportedly visited Lall Bazaar today, informed the vegetable sellers there that they are being given time till 04 April to finish their stocks of vegetables from outside the State and that after that date, such vegetables will be seized and disposed in the composting machine installed in the facility.

The decision to stop bringing fresh stocks from outside follows from this verbal communication, because several wholesalers, till before this visit, informed SummitTimes that they would continue bringing vegetables from outside until they were officially directed not to.

A written notice to this effect has still not been served.

Meanwhile, today’s meeting of the traders also resolved to approach the Department to ensure that adequate supply of locally grown Organic vegetables was provided to the markets.

Should Sikkim’s organic produce fall short of what the market requires, then they will troop to the concerned Department and gherao it until the issue is resolved. “We will have no option left. Apart from the local consumers, this is also tourist season and hotels need to be supplied as well,” Mr Sherpa said.

What the meeting also resolved is that they will ensure that if they cannot bring in vegetables from outside Sikkim, then they will not allow anyone else to do so either.

The hint here is clearly to the loophole they are spying in the notification announcing the ban which says that sale of vegetables from outside Sikkim will be acted against. They see this as meaning that there is nothing stopping people or establishments from bringing in their supplies for consumption.

The traders are clearly opposed to such an eventuality and have announced plans to camp at Rangpo and stop anyone else from bringing in vegetables from outside. “We will also seize and dispose vegetable supplies being brought in from outside,” they announced today.

The meeting also resolved that they will not tolerate any black-marketing or hike in prices of the existing stock and inform that directions have been passed that vegetables should continue to be sold at the existing prices till stocks last (or are seized and disposed by the authorities).

To get a sense of the scale of supplies that will need to be met locally if the ban is imposed in earnest, a wholesaler dealing in fruits informed the meeting that he moves 4,000 kg bananas (the highest selling fruit in Sikkim) every day. He is not convinced yet that the local produce can meet his requirements. He will know soon enough.

And even as the traders deal with this new situation with no clear communication or detailed consultation on the matter, consumers across the State are feeding off rumours and speculations.