Coronavirus update: Fruits, a Navaratri staple, losing out to other lockdown essentials in Delhi

Updated on Mar 28, 2020 07:39 AM IST

Coronavirus update: According to records at the Delhi’s Azadpur Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Azadpur, 40 tonnes of banana arrived from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh on Friday, while the usual demand is around 50 tonnes per day in Delhi.

People buying fruits from a vendor at Gurugram’s Sadar Bazar sabzi mandi on the third day of the national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.(Yogendra Kumar/HT PHOTO)
People buying fruits from a vendor at Gurugram’s Sadar Bazar sabzi mandi on the third day of the national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.(Yogendra Kumar/HT PHOTO)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByAshish Mishra and Soumya Pillai, New Delhi

It was supposed to be that time of the year when business was at its profitable best for fruit sellers. With a lot of people fasting during Navratri, the sale usually doubles. But this year, the 21-day lockdown in view of the Covid-19 outbreak has left a crater in the business.

Wholesale traders at Azadpur Mandi, Asia’s largest wholesale market for vegetables and fruit, said that fruit vendors were the worst hit as people were only purchasing “essential” items. And so, the demand for fruit, especially the perishable ones, has drastically gone down.

The traders at Azadpur Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) said that demand for grapes, pomegranate and mosambi (sweet lemon) too has been similarly hit.

Daily records maintained by the APMC showed that for the past few days there has been no fresh supply of fruits such as pomegranate, grapes, and mosambi. The supply of apples has also been low.

“It is all because of low demand. The lockdown has not only affected the transportation of fruits and vegetables across the country but also triggered panic buying of essential items among people. Hence, no one wants to purchase pomegranate or grapes in place of necessary vegetables,” a member of APMC Azadpur, said requesting anonymity.

According to records at the APMC Azadpur, 40 tonnes of banana arrived from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh on Friday, while the usual demand is around 50 tonnes per day in Delhi.

Similarly, only 50 tonnes of grapes were received at Azadpur wholesale market a couple of days back despite it being in season.Last year, during the same time, its daily demand was around 150 tonnes. And all of it was met.

Last year, Delhi’s demand for pomegranate on March 27 was around 100 tonnes and all of it was met while this year thee demand is “very low”.

Generally, juice sellers buy pomegranate and mosambi in bulk. But these days, such outlets or shops are closed and so, the demand too has gone down. Pomegranate is procured from Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra; mosambi from Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra; grapes from Maharashtra and bananas from Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Adil Ahmad Khan, chairman APMC Azadpur said that, except for banana, the demand for fruits such as pomegranate, apple, grapes, mosambi has reduced to a great extent due to lockdown so the supply has also been affected.

“There was no supply of pomegranate, grapes, and mosambi at the market on Friday. Due to the corona outbreak, the demand for essential vegetables and fruits such as potato, tomato, and banana have increased while the opposite is the case with fruits such as grapes, pomegranate these days. People are now focusing more on buying essential vegetables during the lockdown instead of going for fruits. Grapes are highly perishable items plus these are the lockdown days so no trader wants to take the risk hence the demand for grapes has become almost negligible these days,” Khan, who is the Delhi government-appointed head of the APMC, said.

He, however, added that the government is ensuring an adequate supply of essential vegetables at the mandi and enough stock is available.

Retailers across the city said that people are mostly only stocking up essential vegetables and even the remaining fruit stock on the racks are going unsold.

“Since the lockdown was announced the sale of all vegetables and grains has spiked, but people are not buying a lot of fruit. The only fruit that is maintaining its demand is banana,” said Shiv Bhushan Tiwari, a retailer in east Delhi Laxmi Nagar.

Another retail vendor of fruits and vegetables in south Delhi Kailash Colony said that they have stopped ordering high quantities of fruits and are instead buying vegetables such as onions, potatoes, and tomatoes because of the high demand for it.

“You sell what is in demand. Because there was a lack of clarity of whether there will be a smooth supply of vegetables, people panicked and shopped only the essential items for surviving the lockdown,” said Kishori Lal Dubey, the owner of a supermarket chain in the area.

Tilak Raj, who owns a vegetables and fruits shop at Azadpur Mandi also said that the delay in getting curfew passes was also a reason behind the dip in the sales of perishable fruits such as grapes.

“Till Thursday there was a lot of confusion over the issuance of passes for transporting fruits and vegetables to retail stores across the city. Now we have started getting passes plus things have also become clear so we hope that the supply of perishable fruits and vegetables will become normal,” Raj said.

He also added that the existing stock in the mandi had also started going bad and the wholesale market is now strewn with rotten mosambis and grapes.

The supply and distribution of perishable goods are still slow mainly because the police are yet distributing curfew passes to all traders.

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