Thiruvananthapuram: Severe vegetable shortage would hit Keralites this Onam with Tamil Nadu farmers and the wholesale and retail vegetable vendors in the state at war with the state government over its move to prevent the entry of pesticide-laden vegetables. Close on the heels of Tamil Nadu farmers deciding to stage a blockade on the border restricting the entry of vehicles from Kerala for procuring vegetables, the vegetable vendors here have threatened to call a strike if the government doesn’t withdraw its decision to block vehicles at the check posts.
Around 250 truck loads of vegetables arrive in the state per day through various check posts. During Onam days, around 500 to 600 trucks arrive to meet the growing demand. The Commissionerate of Food Safety has decided to block the vehicles with no valid licence or registration from August 4. All-Kerala Vegetable Merchants’ Association, Kottayam district president M.K. Sakeer said that the traders would down the shutters.
“The government continues to be insensitive to the issue by taking harsh steps without proper consultation with the stakeholders. Only one meeting was held with the merchants and later no intimation came regarding the steps. Now the TN farmers are agitated,” said Mr Sakeer. Claiming it as an anti-people move, he said that the prices of vegetables would go up hitting the common man.
A senior food safety official said that squads had been constituted to check the level of pesticides in vegetables arriving in the state as part of Operation Ruchi. M.J. Ansar, a vegetable trader, said that the government should own up the responsibility to make available safe vegetables instead of imposing new rules. “Many of the vegetable vendors are still in the dark about the new reforms brought in by the government,” lamented Ansar.