Ban on non-organic produce in Sikkim

Come Sunday, organic Sikkim will not allow sale of non-organic agricultural produce but confusion exists among traders over how the ban will be enforced on consignments from other states and on existing stocks.

By RAJEEV RAVIDAS in Gangtok
  • Published 1.04.18
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Gangtok: Come Sunday, organic Sikkim will not allow sale of non-organic agricultural produce but confusion exists among traders over how the ban will be enforced on consignments from other states and on existing stocks.

"Officers will inspect markets throughout the state, and if any vendor is found selling the banned vegetables and fruits, his entire stock would be seized," state horticulture secretary Khorlo Bhutia said on Saturday.

The Sikkim government - which had announced the plan for such a ban earlier without specifying the date - has listed 27 items, including vegetables, fruits, cereals, spices and condiments which, if non-organic, would not be allowed to be sold.

Some staples like potato and onion, however, have been exempted primarily because they are not cultivated on a mass scale in the state.

The population of Sikkim is about seven lakh and the number of tourists visiting the state annually is double that number.

State agriculture minister Somnath Poudyal sought the cooperation of the people in implementing the ban and promised government intervention if there is an exorbitant rise in the prices of organic items.

Poudyal said the main reason behind the initiative was to ensure a healthy life for the people and protect the environment, which is being degraded by the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers.

Vegetable vendors, however, voiced concern over the ban.

"If companies and hotels are allowed to bring vegetables from outside, or the government does not keep a check on household or retail imports, the All Sikkim Traders Association (ASTA) and Lall Bazaar Traders Association will also bring vegetables from outside the state," warned ASTA vice-president Lakpa Sherpa, The two associations demanded that the state government stop the entry of vegetables at checkpoints along the border with Bengal.#The government said it would not carry out checks at the entry points and only do so in vegetable markets across the state.

"In order to avoid harassment of people, we will not carry out checks at entry points. We want voluntary co-operation from people in this mission," said horticulture secretary Bhutia. He added that unsold non-organic vegetables brought till Saturday will be seized.

"The ban should be total. If it is selective, we will also get vegetables from outside. When people cannot differentiate between organic and inorganic vegetables in the market, how can the department seize our stock? This is a worry for us," said a vendor at Lall Bazaar, the main vegetable market in Gangtok.