VIJAYAWADA:After the Hyderabad High Court’s recent intervention to rein in merchants from using calcium carbide to ripen fruits, the sale of fruits, particularly that of apples, appears to have come down sharply in Vijayawada.
The first indication that the apple trade has taken a blow is the price at which the apples are being sold in the market. An apple of the size of a little over a tennis ball is being sold for Rs 10, a price unheard of in the recent past. In fact, the price used to fluctuate between Rs 20 and Rs 30 for an apple and it had never come down below Rs 20. But now, even at Rs 10, there are no takers.
Experts had submitted to the High Court that the use of calcium carbide could cause cancer, lead to breakdown of central nervous system, cause severe health problems among adolescent children, make lungs vulnerable for infections, cause burning sensation in stomach and also affect eyesight. This seems to have shaken the consumers who are now shunning fruits like plague.
The fears were found to be true when results of the samples of fruits sent to the State Food Laboratory, Hyderabad, indicated that at least four fruits had traces of calcium carbide. Said an official: “We sent the first batch of samples to the State Food Laboratory in Hyderabad on August 16. The results were positive in respect of apples, bananas, grapes and pomegranates. We sent another batch of samples on August 21 and the results of the same are awaited.”
Vijayawada is a major centre of not only for the sale and consumption of apples but also exporting them to several districts in AP and Khammam and Warangal districts in Telangana.
According to Fruit Merchants Association joint secretary N Chiranjeevi, there is a whopping 75 per cent drop in apple trade since the High Court made the observation on calcium carbide treatment to apples. “It is a fact that some fruits are being treated with calcium carbide like papaya and oranges. But apples are never treated with the chemical. But the media reports have sent shock waves among the consumers and the result is that the apple trade has collapsed,” Chiranjeevi said.
“On a normal day, the market does a trade of Rs 3.6 crore in apples. We get 30 lorries of apples every day. Each lorry brings 16 tonnes of apples, worth Rs. 12 lakh. All put together, it is Rs 3.6 lakh”, Chiranjeevi said. A trader Velagapudi Viruf Kumar said that he had suffered a loss of 70 per cent business after the High Court observations. “Volumes have come down drastically,” he said.
The mango merchants said that they are not guilty. There might be some black sheep here and there whose actions are causing a lot of damage to the entire trade. “We do not use calcium carbide,” said Chiranjeevi.
Another trader K Ramakrishna said that they never used calcium carbide. “The trade runs like this. The farmer gets his fruits in trucks to our market. Here, the buyers come, buy them and take away the load. We are just commission agents. We do not deal directly with the stock. If calcium carbide treatment is taking place, it may be at the buyer’s end,” he said.
But the officials said there was no need for them to lie on the issue. “It is not our observation. It is the laboratory report, which had said that the fruits had indeed been treated with calcium carbide,” an officer said.