CHENNAI: The double whammy of handling perishable farm produce during a lockdown and finding takers for the same has hurt traders at the Koyambedu wholesale market hard. The COVID-19 lockdown has sucked the commerce out of such wholesale markets, and traders keep their shops open with the hope of customers walking in sooner than later. If not, their only option is to throw the produce out.
Ayyanar, a trader from MRM wholesale shop, which deals primarily with capsicum, gooseberry, fritter chilly and large sized brinjals, told Express that 25 per cent of the products being shipped from the farm gets wasted, as they rot and are strewn in and around the market. “Business is tough these days. Although we are not able to sell anything, we are keeping the shops open only because otherwise farmers will lose out, as their crops will go waste,” he said while showing a series of videos which his fellow salespersons who procure vegetables from the farmers have posted.
“Now, we are ready to sell a box full of capsicum for `300 (`10 per kg),” he said. The market wore a desolate look as some of the trucks are yet to be unloaded and there were persons picking the good vegetables from the rotten ones that could be sold in retail.
‘Government should step in’
Another trader told Express that the government should buy out the vegetables from traders and store it in warehouses, which, it can directly sell to the people. “We don’t require these many cops and our safety from coronavirus will also be guaranteed,” he said. Vasudevan Chinnathambi, co-founder, Ninjacart, said that many states are now considering the model where they are working with the Maharastra government by supplying them with fresh vegetables, which are then sold at the doorstep with the help of people hired by multiple firms.
Despite the scare and labour shortage to unload the vegetables from trucks, the market is likely to function. “We don’t have any option but to keep the market functioning, as vegetables are essential commodities and it has to be supplied daily,” said S Chandran, Market Management Committee Licensed Merchants Association president and Anaithu Sangankalin Kootamaipu general secretary.