City worried over 'harmful' Chinese apples

By Times Of India on 02 Jul 2018 | read
GUWAHATI: 'An apple a day keeps the doctor away' is an old adage that every child has heard while growing up. But the apple, which is popularly considered to be a panacea for all ailments, has another unflattering connotation in the Bible - that of the forbidden fruit - which people are being increasingly reminded of in the recent times. Fears of banned Chinese Fuji apples, containing harmful pests, having inundated the local markets has led to panic among fruit lovers in the city.
Most of this panic - perhaps not unfounded - was occasioned by the seizure of 350 cartons of shiny Chinese apples weighing 6300 kg by customs officials last week. The value of the seized consignment was reportedly Rs 12, 60,00 and the fruits were being transported illegally from Myanmar via Imphal. The consignment was seized at the inter-state bus terminus in Guwahati.

Repeated tests had revealed that these fruits carry harmful pests after which India suspended import of apples and pears from China last year. The fungicide used for ripening these apples, known as Urbacid or Tuzet, can cause skin rashes besides leading to other illnesses. The Chinese government has also proposed banning pesticides containing Urbacid due to their high content of toxic arsine. Farmers in Yantai and Qixia province of China reportedly keep these apples covered with bags coated with this fungicide, for a period of five months, until the fruits ripen.

Meenakshi Baruah, a dietitian, told TOI, "Research have found that the growing of Fuji apples in paper bags coated with fungicide is an unhealthy practice which causes problems in people who consume these fruits."

A customs official said, "Though import of these apples is suspended, they are smuggled into the city as many fruit sellers place orders for them." Explaining the modus operandi of the fruit smugglers, customs sources added, "All these apples have entered India through Moreh market in Manipur. These smugglers send the consignments on long-distance night buses from Imphal to Guwahati. After reaching the bus terminus here, unknown agents here offload them and take them to their respective destinations. There is a huge demand for these apples among fruit distributors in Fancy Bazar."

The bus drivers and handymen involved in the smuggling racket charge a commission from carrying and distributing the apples. "Since these are fruits, no one suspects that transporting or distributing them could be illegal," sources added.