Sri Lanka crate law stirs protest

Dec 14, 2011 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s fresh produce trade including farmers and collectors rioted in several parts of the country amid police tear-gas after authorities started arresting citizens for transporting vegetables without plastic crates. The protests also underline deep flaws in the country’s policy and lawmaking, critics say.

On Wednesday vegetable shops in the capital were mostly empty as protest by traders continued in the capital Colombo.

At one shop where there was a large pile of beans in a Colombo suburb the shopkeeper said a regular supplier had ‘smuggled’ in a load of beans and begged him to buy the entire quantity as the supplier feared the police if he tried to distribute to all the shops.

One old timer said the events reminded him of the 1970s when they used to smuggle rice inside vegetable sacks, because the state prohibited the transport of rice under a highly interventionist socialist administration.

“We used to bring rice into the Pettah vegetable market,” he said nostalgically. “A sack is first filled with a layer of vegetables, then a bag of rice is placed in the middle.

“Then it is covered with more vegetables. So when the truck is stopped and even if the sacks are poked checked, only vegetabl