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Fruit traders call off strike

FBCCI pledges to take up formalin issues with govt

By Special Correspondent
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Fruit importers, wholesalers and most of the retailers observed a half-day strike in the city on Saturday to protest against ongoing anti-formalin drive. Fruits like blackberry, litchis and grapes were missing from the markets for second consecutive day.Hundreds of traders under the banner of "Fruit Importers and wholesalers Multipurpose Cooperative Society formed a human chain from Shyambazar to Babubazar Bridge via Sadarghat and Ahsan Monzil in the morning.        Addressing the programme, leaders of the organization, including its General Secretary Sirajul Islam urged the government to end the anti-formalin drive immediately. Otherwise, he said that they would stop selling fruits during the month of Ramzan, which will begin on June 28.   Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Fruit Traders Association (MFTA) on Saturday called off their strike after an assurance from the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) that it would look into the issue of the fruit traders.Members of the MFTA kept their shops shut from June 19 protesting the anti-formalin drive of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) that led to destruction of tonnes of fruits."We withdrew the strike after the FBCCI assured us of looking into the matter"," said Julhasuddin, secretary of the association.He took the decision after FBCCI Vice President Helal Uddin held a meeting with the fruit traders.However, some wholesale markets in Karwan Bazar, the prime market in the capital, remained open yesterday, while retailers in some areas, including Jatrabari, did their normal business ignoring the strike.  "We have made a vow that we will only sell chemical-free, fresh fruits. So we are not afraid of law enforcer's anti-formalin drive and have kept our businesses open," said ASM Mahbubul Alam alias Hazi Babul, President of Karwan Bazar Wholesale Fruit Traders Association.  Meanwhile, a section of chemical experts under the banner of Bangladesh Fresh Fruits Consumers Association (BFFCA) yesterday alleged that the destruction of fruits without any laboratory test is hitting, fruit traders and importers hard. They claimed that there have been confusion and conflicting views among government agencies over the effectiveness of formalin-detecting kits which need to be removed without delay. The BFFCA leaders said this at a press conference at the National Press Club in the morning. Convener of the body Dr Abdul Wadud read out a statement at the conference.Dr Wadud claimed that the reports based on fruits test coming from Science Laboratory, BSTI, IPH (Institute of Public Health) and instant report from formalin-detecting machine are not the same.The formalin and other harmful chemicals are being externally used in fruits and vegetables as preservatives, which is harmful for human consumption. At least seven children, including a 6-year old daughter of a fruit farmer, died in poisonous reaction after eating formalin tainted litchi in greater Rangpur last year. The incident generated public outcry across the country following media reports. Earlier, in the first week of this month, a group of scientists made a report public after thoroughly examining the state of fruits and vegetables in the city markets that said, "100 per cent of blackberries, 95 per cent of litchis, 60 per cent mangoes and 45 per cent vegetables are tainted with toxic chemicals, including formalin."    Meanwhile, DMP officials said, the mobile courts continued to work at eight-points in the city to check toxic chemical tainted fruits in the capital. Over 7000 trucks were checked during last eight days. Of the trucks, 1,630 were carrying different types of fruits including mangoes, blackberries, jackfruits, litchis, bananas, pineapples, lemon and lotkons (Burmese grapes). The DMP collected samples of fruits and found 81 trucks were carrying fruits tainted with formalin, a chemical which is deemed to cause health hazards if consumed. During the examination, 2.88ppm to 89ppm (parts per million) formalin was found in litchi while 0.40-149.75ppm in mango and 3.12-35ppm formalin was detected in blackberry.Although the tolerable range of chemical-tainted fruits is only 0.15ppm.  Meanwhile, Mango traders of Chapainawabgonj on Saturday postponed their agitation programmes until June 26 following assurances from the district administration that steps would be taken to stop harassment and extortion in the name of formalin detection on highways.

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