Afroz runs his meat shop in a shack near Noida’s Sector 31 market. Holding a butcher’s knife in one hand, he rests the other hand on a scaffold and laments that the past two months, particularly November, have not been good for business.
“Since demonetisation, our customers have reduced. The first week was the worst, but I still get customers who offer me old notes. Winter is the time when we do good business and it is frustrating to have the year end in this manner,” he said.
His ability to use online wallets or card-swipe machines is apparent in his response to being asked for his mobile phone. Smiling sheepishly, the 19-year-old said, “I don’t have my phone with me right now. My brother has gone to Ghazipur market for business and he is using it currently.”
The past two months have been difficult for fish and meat vendors in Noida. First, the bird flu alert affected sales and then demonetisation hit these vendors who mostly use cash to conduct their business.
“Every year, there is a bird-flu-alert week during which the price of chicken goes down. But this time, the bird flu was followed by ‘notebandi’ (demonetisation). It has hit our business hard. The vendors in Ghazipur market now hesitate in selling us poultry on credit,” said Gautam, another chicken vendor, referring to Delhi’s major poultry market.
At the Nithari fish market too, several vendors said demonetisation has lowered the price of their products.
“The katla fish was earlier priced at Rs250 a kilo. Now, we sell it at Rs230. Similarly, Bahul fish was priced at Rs170-Rs180 a kilo, but now we sell it for Rs140. We have seen a gradual decline of Rs30-Rs40 a kilo in the prices of all our products,” said Vishwanath, a fish vendor at Nithari fish market.
Explaining the reason, Sanjay, another vendor, said, “A majority of our customer base comes from the Bengali community in Noida who used to visit us every morning to buy fish. Now, due to lack of cash, this ‘luxury’ has gone and they visit us only twice or thrice a week. Also, we don’t have a union or representative, which allows outside elements to dictate the price of our products.”
Despite the recent push for cashless transactions and plastic money, only one vendor in the 20-odd shops in the market was found to be using a digital wallet service.
“I have been using Paytm for the past two years and therefore I run the only shop in the area that accepts plastic money. Some customers have conducted transactions with Paytm, otherwise we usually have customers with cash,” said Rehan, a chicken vendor in the market.
With experts suggesting no respite from cash shortage till the year-end, the city’s meat and fish vendors are anxious that they might end up missing out in their peak season.
“The period from Christmas to New Year is when we have the maximum business. We are not sure if we can have that this year,” said Afroz.