State Traders Association unhappy with Horticulture Department on veggie ban

Gangtok, 02 Apr:

The lack of clarity on how the state government is going to enforce the ban on import of non-organic produce into the State has caused dissatisfaction among vegetable traders who are now alleging that proper measures have not been put in place to ensure that organic produce reaches consumers with some going further to state that organic produce alone cannot meet the State's demands.

“We welcome the decision of the state government to ban sale of non-organic produces from outside Sikkim but at the same time, we are dissatisfied over the behavior of some Horticulture Department officers coming to Lal Bazaar and threatening the traders,” said vice president of All Sikkim Traders Association [ASTA], Lakpa Sherpa.

He also informed that the traders at Lal Bazaar have not been served any written notice regarding the ban. He further alleged that the concerned departmental officers, on a visit, threatened the traders that their products will be seized and later destroyed if sold from 04 Apr.

“We are not against the government’s decision. Instead, we are happy and ready to sell organic produce but in carrying out this process, the concerned department has proved to be a total failure. The department is producing organic vegetables only on paper to impress the government but the same is not reaching the market to be sold to consumers,” said Mr Sherpa.

“The department is showing everything perfect on paper but the reality is something different. We have been in this business for a long time now and we know the daily supply and demand of vegetables here. We are sure that the organic produce in the State will not be enough to fulfill the daily demand of consumers,” said one of the ASTA members, Harka Lama.

The department's officers have directed the traders not to sell non-organic produce but till date, adequate supply of organic produce has not been arranged, added Mr Lama.

“The department has to identify and guide the traders as to how the organic vegetables can be made available for the consumers. We are happy but a little dissatisfied over the decision as it will directly affect our earnings and livelihood,” said one of the traders in Lal Bazaar.

Another trader, Raju Shah, expressed, “We are ready to follow the guidelines and sell organic produces but it will be a little difficult for all at the initial stage.”

“Organic is good but everyone cannot afford it as organic produces are more expensive compared to non-organic products. There should be freedom to choose for all,” said a consumer, M Pradhan.

Meanwhile, the lack of clarity on how the State plans to check the import of vegetables at the border has led to insecurity amongst traders, who have stated that they themselves will camp at Rangpo to ensure that no non-organic produce enters Sikkim.

Vice president, ASTA, Mr Sherpa said that if the department is imposing the ban, it should be for all.

“The department should set up a team at Rangpo for checking so that no one can bring non-organic produce from outside the State. We don’t know about the department but we will definitely camp at Rangpo to check the buying and bringing of non-organic produce to stop anyone from bringing non-organic produce into the State,” added Mr Sherpa.

He also said that buying and bringing non-organic products from outside the State will not be tolerated by the association.

“We will give a warning if caught for the first time but if things continue, we will destroy the non-organic produces that are being brought to Sikkim,” Mr Sherpa added.

They also informed that they will continue to import items that are being allowed for sale in the State. As informed by the traders, onion, potato, garlic and lemon are allowed to be brought to Sikkim as the production of these items in the State cannot meet the demand of the consumers.

It may be mentioned here that the state government has announced a ban on sale of non-organic produces in the State keeping in mind the health of its citizens and to uplift organic farmers who are involved in organic farming.

The Home Department issued a notification on 31 Mar banning the import of non-organic produce into the State with immediate effect, which also said that Enforcement Officers will be designated for the purpose of seizure and disposal of non-organic produce.