By Shezna Shums
Vegetable and fruits traders complain that the use of plastic crates increases their final cost of produce, making them impractical for small time traders.
Manning Market Podu Velenda Sangamaya Secretary Gamini Handunge said that they had met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and explained their problems and had been told that the use of plastic crates would be in effect unless civilians find it difficult to use the plastic crates, in which case their use would be discontinued.
An individual crate can hold only 30 to 50 kilos of vegetables or fruits whereas a gunny bag can contain a higher quantity of fresh produce.
The Secretary added that vendors had raised questions about the quality of some crates in the market.
Manning Market traders had highlighted that with the cost of a lorry hire and other commissions, the cost of buying crates would add to the final cost of food.
Even vegetables and fruits that are reasonably priced would become more expensive as the cost of crates is high and a lesser quantity of fresh product can be transported in crates.
“It takes two crates to pack fresh produce which can be packed in one gunny bag,” highlighted Handunge.
He explained that most of the vendors at Manning Market transport their fresh produce by three wheelers and that only three to four crates can be put into one vehicle, whereas 200 to 300 kilos of fresh produce can be transported if they are using gunny bags. “The vendor has to pay twice as much when two trips have to be made when transporting fresh vegetables and fruits in crates,” stated Handunge.
A problem has also arisen over the storing of empty crates by vendors in the market, as they take up more room than gunny bags.
Handunge also noted that farmers found it difficult to use crates to store the fresh produce when the cultivation lands were harvested: “Farmers who have cultivation lands in mountainous areas usually pack their fresh vegetables and fruits in gunny bags and put them on the side of an animal to be brought to even ground. However, crates cannot be used in this manner.”
Another issue is that when fresh product is transported in gunny bags, other items such as cement and bricks are put in the returning lorry. However, with crates there is no room for other items to be transported, which increases the lorry hiring charges as well.
At the Manning Market only a number of traders use crates although the Government has made it compulsory that people harvesting, transporting and selling local fresh vegetables and fruits should only use crates to reduce the amount of food going to waste.
It was estimated that up in some instances to 40% of fresh vegetables and fruits are damaged owing to the inadequate methods of storing and transporting them.
Plastic crates were distributed at some economic centres and the Treasury Department has pledged more funds for purchasing of plastic boxes.
Meanwhile, even at the Narahenpita Economic Centre, only three or four vendors use crates when transporting and selling fresh produces, highlighted Narahenpita Economic Centre Manager Jude Ranasinghe.