The plastic crates issue
The impartial observer
could not be faulted for being baffled by the sight of vegetable
vendors and transporters protesting at some trading locations
over a decision by the government to enforce an earlier
agreed-upon requirement that vegetables and fruits be
transported in plastic crates.
There seems to have been needless 'theatricals' over the
issue with some vendors spewing their merchandise over the
length and breadth of highways and some others even resorting to
unruly tactics, such as, setting tyres and tubes alight. Our
front page news report yesterday on these bizarre developments
quoted Cooperatives and Internal Trade Minister Johnston
Fernando as saying that the plastic crates rule was no sudden
decision by the state but one for which the consent of the
vegetable vendors and other relevant parties was obtained some
He said - and he was absolutely right - that the government
would not be going back on its decision, particularly in view of
the fact that it serves the public interest fully well.
It is quite some time since solid scientific research
revealed that a monumental amount of vegetables and other
produce suffer spoilage as a result of being transported long
distances without being suitably packed and stored. All of this
translates into billions of rupees lost annually to the country
and, equally significantly, the consumer's best interests being
compromised because he ends up with vegetables and fruits which
are hardly suitable for consumption.
Accordingly, the state is doing right by insisting that
plastic crates be used and the state has no choice but to do
what is right and judicious. If the public interest is being
served by these measures, then, it stands to reason that the
government must go right ahead with the requirement that
vegetables and fruits be transported in the most appropriate,
However, we urge that the state continues to dialogue with
the relevant parties with a view to convincing them of the
virtues of the new mode of transportation of the goods in
There are numerous parties to this issue and any one or
several of them may be up in arms against the new scheme.
Apparently, the interests of some prominent quarters in the
operation are being affected. Nevertheless, the common good
cannot be compromised and the state is duty-bound to protect it.
The state would also need to be alert to the fact that the
protests were quite numerous and unexpectedly unruly.
The question needs to be asked whether they were organized by
those who want to hurt the public interest very grievously.
These and many more issues should be investigated by the state
and the relevant measures taken to bring any wrong-doers to
The goods, once purchased from the farmer, pass through
numerous intermediaries before they finally arrive at the local
market place or retail sales outlet. It is common knowledge that
the farmer ends up with a pittance at the end of the day, once
his produce passes through the hands of these intermediaries,
who, of course, get 'a cut' from the sale of the produce.
It would not be realistic to expect those who, thus, profit
from the sale of the produce to see eye-to-eye with the
government. But the state is required to uphold the public
interest and this is the reason why the state should not only go
ahead with the new mode of transport but get state
organizations, such as, the numerous Sathosa outlets in the
country, to purchase produce directly from the farmer and to
stock them for the purpose of selling directly to the consumer.
Among other things, this will ensure a satisfactory price for
the farmer who is the only party in this supply chain who lives
from 'the sweat of his brow.'
Developments such as these, which are characterized by
unusual shows of public anger, should be taken cognizance of by
the authorities. At first blush, it could be said that they are
not spontaneous. It needs to be probed whether they are sparked
by those who have a vested interest in destructive public