The impending policy decision barring single-use plastics and a ban on PET bottles after a 3-month window has left the Maharashtra food processing industry in a state of flux. Several horticulture associations have opposed the move and have urged the government to deliberate upon alternative packaging solutions.
Maharashtra is a major producer of oranges (40%), grapes (50%), mangoes, strawberries and guavas, accounting for 14.5% share in the country’s fruit production. Additionally, Maharashtra is among the largest exporter of grapes, mangoes and about 97% of India’s total grape wine produce comes from the state. According to the National Horticulture Board data, Maharashtra stands second in the country with fruit production of 103.96 lakh metric tonne.
According to Akhilesh Bhargava, chairman, Environment Committee, All India Plastics Manufacturers Association (AIPMA), 20,000 tonne of PET goes into the packaging of fruit drinks and fruit produce packaging annually in Maharashtra alone. Sopan Kanchan, president, Grape Grower Association of India says the plastic ban has put the grapes industry in complete distress.
“We are facing challenges even at the nurseries, where plastic is used to securely keep the saplings. Now, suddenly, we have been forced to seek alternatives without any form of support or viable alternative.The implementation of the ban should have had a longer deadline, for us to prepare in advance. Further, if PET bottles are also banned, the end-product would be impacted, grape juice and wines are all mostly sold in PET bottles. What we need is to invest in research to seek viable recycling mechanisms, instead of a blanket ban on plastics,” he added.
In the middle of peak summer, a ban on PET bottles will impact a major segment of fruit-based consumer goods — specifically cold beverages like juices, squash, pulp and puree. In case the authorities decide to ban PET bottles after the 3-month window, consumers, fruit growers and suppliers will end up suffering in this heat, Kanchan stated. The ban will not only have an adverse impact on fruit farmers but also on several food processing companies, causing losses to the economy, especially in the fruit belts of Maharashtra like Ratnagiri, Nagpur, Nashik, Solapur, Pune, Amravati, Sangli, Satara, Jalna, Latur, Sindhudurg and Raigad known for the production of mango, grape and oranges.
“Citrus — including the Nagpur mandarin and sweet lime — accounts for more than 60 % of the fruit-based beverages market in India. Most of the popular citrus-beverage FMCG brands use PET bottles for packaging. In case the authorities decide to enforce a ban on PET bottles, it will have a significant business impact on the entire industry,” Amol Totey, president, Orange Grower Association of India said.