By Uditha Jayasinghe
Plastic crates will be mandatory to store and transport vegetables and fruits from today. The regulation, which was supposed to be implemented earlier this year, will finally be put in place according to the Cooperatives and Internal Trade Ministry.
The Ministry stated in a media release that the step has been taken to reduce post harvest losses, which was estimated to be as much as 40% in Sri Lanka.
The earlier deadline for implementing this regulation was 1 May. However due to the inability for all persons involved in the fresh vegetables and fruit industry to acquire the boxes, the government extended the deadline. From 1 September all farmers, distributors, traders, sellers and middlemen will have to store, transport and display their goods in plastic crates. The General Treasury had also allocated Rs. 103 million to purchase plastic containers for vegetable transportation. The statement went onto say that as a first step the Ministry has organised awareness campaigns to teach farmers and distributors of the importance of using plastic crates. The Ministry warns that if the new regulations are not followed, action will be taken to fine offenders.
It was earlier reported that through the Treasury, over 150,000 containers have already been provided to the farmers, collectors of vegetables and the traders who are engaged in direct contribution to the trade, and further arrangements had been made to provide adequate plastic containers in due course.
Initially when plastic boxes were introduced, the Ministry of Agriculture had provided a number of crates to those in the agricultural sector, and the farmers had informed the Ministry of Agriculture that the boxes should come with lids so that pilfering could be reduced.
According to the private sector distributors there were already around 200 000 crates in circulation around the country before the mandatory regulations brought in by the Government.