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August 12, 2018

Contaminated jaggery floods markets


August 12, 2018

PESHAWAR: The adulterated, spurious and injurious gur (jaggery) has flooded markets in the provincial capital as middlemen at the local markets have disbursed huge amounts as advance payment to the farmers to produce the chemical-adulterated product.

The middlemen have started buying this gur from the farmers and they are selling it to both retailers and consumers. This is posing serious health hazard to the consumers on one hand and putting the livelihood of the genuine sugarcane farmers at stake on the other.

Experts told The News that jaggery had many minerals and was a nutrition packed natural product. It is a good source of iron and proteins and contains minerals like calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, manganese, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. In comparison, sugar has 99 percent carbohydrates and is harmful for diabetics.

However, like all other food items, the use of chemicals and contamination in this essential item has also been rising unexpectedly over the last few years.

Adulteration in gur particularly rose after the traditional middlemen (arthi) of gur started paying the farmers in advance to import dark-coloured and low-price jaggery from Punjab. The farmers are also provided sugar for mixing it in jiggery to increase its weight and whiten it with chemicals.

Sodium hydrosulphite is used to whiten (lighten the colour) of the jiggery. The packet (of this bleaching powder) is sold in the agri chemicals shops and even in the shops in the gur markets. It is not there for agri use. It is sold for use in the textile industry as a bleaching agent. This is used to bleach jaggery during the production.

Mohammad Zahir Khan, senior vice-chairman of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chamber of Agriculture, said hundreds of ghanay (gur making machine) have started making his highly deleterious gur in Tangi, Saleem Khan, Sherpao and Shergarh areas of the province. Sharing the names of the middlemen involved in this business, he said that over half a dozen businessmen had made advance payment to the farmers in these areas to produce the spurious gur for them.

He alleged that they also provided sugar and the chemicals to the farmers for mixing in the product.

He claimed that the matter was brought into to the notice of the secretary Agriculture Department but no action had been taken yet in this regard.

Zahir Khan recalled that last year the deputy commissioner Peshawar and secretary agriculture had raided several markets where the spurious gur was being sold. An agreement was also concluded with the businessmen that they would neither provide any payment to the farmers nor sell such gur, he said. However, the practice continued unabated, he added.

A vendor, who wished not to be named, said that there was hardly any gur in the market that were free of sugar and chemicals. He added that he has not seen any official checking the quality and contamination of this daily use item in the markets these days.

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