The proposal of the Himachal Pradesh government to sell-off the Agro-Industrial Packaging India Limited (AIPIL) carton factory at Gumma in Shimla district has drawn sharp reactions from apple growers in the area.
President of the HP Fruit Growers Association, Ravinder Chauhan, in a statement said the production of the cartons at the factory was stopped two years back. This adversely affected the prices of the cartons as private companies have increased the prices by 25-30%. The federation would launch agitation in case the government does not withdraw the move to sell the factory, he said.
Sanjay Chauhan, President of the Himachal Kisan Sabha also said the Kisan Sabha will oppose the closure of the factory as it will leave the fruit growers at the mercy of the private companies. Already farmers are facing problems in getting good quality cartons in the market, he added.
Narender Bragta, who is the local MLA and state horticulture and technical education minister is keen on opening a ITI in the premises.
The market value of the machinery at the factory is reported to be at Rs. 3 crores. In a single tender bid the government has received a bid of Rs. 70 lakhs from a Meerut based firm, sources revealed.
Local people too are against the outright closure and demanding opening of a CA store instead if running the factory is no more feasible. There is no CA store in the entire region and opening of the one can fetch good prices in the market to the growers.
The AIPIL was setup in 1989 to produce cardboard cartons for packaging of apples, once use of wooden boxes was banned. These cartons were sold initially on subsidy to the growers. Once the subsidy bill of the government increased, the production was reduced in later years. But mounting expenses in the form of wages and other expenditure were not reduced resulting in overall bankruptcy of the factory.
Overall production at the factory has remained under-utilized in the past and no production has happened in the last two years. Total apple produced in Himachal was 16 million cartons in 2009, 26 million in 2008 and the maximum was in the year 2006 when this figure touched 28.6 million cartons.
Yet, the AIPIL carton factory is on the verge of closure!!