Storekeepers from traditional marketplaces rue the rising number of supermarkets and hypermarkets.
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Onam is gearing up to be an expensive affair for Malayalis this season, thanks to the price hike. With only days left before the big day, markets in the capital are bustling with activity, anticipating brisk business in the coming days.
The prices of vegetables have been skyrocketing for the past few weeks, but traders say, there has been no special hike in the prices of produce needed for the much anticipated Onasadya.“Compared to last year, the buzz is low. The market is yet to pick up,” says Soman J, a trader at Chalai market.
“This time last year, the fervour was at its peak and there was a good rush. Also, I think last year, people were desperate for an Onam celebration after the Covid restrictions.” The prices have remained high for several weeks now. But for a couple of items, there has been no particular hike,” he adds.
Traders have noticed another emerging trend. The celebrations have been scaled down, many say.“People are celebrating Onam only on the last two days — Uthradam and Thiruvonam — unlike the old times. So the market will pick up in two or three days,” says M K Sakeer, an officer-bearer of All Kerala Vegetable Merchants’ Association.
Sakeer believes that there is no price rise. When the demand is higher, the traders try to procure more, leading to a slight rise in prices. For example, I will have to stock up on more vegetables,” he explains.
Storekeepers from traditional marketplaces also rue the rising number of supermarkets and hypermarkets. Customers prefer hypermarkets for Onam shopping, they say. Amitha Ratheesh, a customer, agrees. She is returning after a huge Onam shopping from a prominent supermarket.
“Though it’s expensive, I prefer instant ‘Sadya’ for Onam celebrations at home. It’s time when the entire family gathers together, and it’s more convenient than spending time in the kitchen,” she says. Also, hypermarkets are better than shopping at marketplaces. They give better offers and choices, and also safety from the heat outside,” she adds.
The parking crisis is another issue for the local traders in marketplaces. “Ever since the opening of malls and hypermarkets, the public has preferred to go there. This trend is a huge blow to local traders. The police are also enforcing strict traffic rules and imposing fines for roadside parking. And when there is a lack of parking space in these market areas, people prefer malls where they can shop peacefully. Even the KSRTC is operating special services at these malls. It’s really unfortunate,” says Ratheesh C S, Palayam committee secretary of Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Samiti. However, there is still hope in his eyes. “Business will pick up in the coming days, and the traders are all prepared. Compared to the pandemic days, business is much better now,” he adds.
Agriculture department to set up local markets
To bring down the prices of essential commodities, especially vegetables, during Onam, the agriculture department is gearing up to set up local markets. Officials say the district produced nearly 1,000 metric tonnes of vegetables this season. The plan is to make available locally cultivated vegetables at 30 per cent reduced rates compared to the market price. An official says 65 per cent of vegetables that will be sold through the markets will be sourced locally.
“This year the harvest is good as there was less rain. We will be moving the surplus items to markets where the demand is higher. Long beans, cucumber, bitter gourd, yam, snake guard, and tuber crops are in excess this year. And we are setting up Onachandas across the district, and excess items will be sold in other markets within the district,” says the official. The department is aiming to sell 50 tonnes of vegetables and fruits through Onachandas. Horticorp will procure 300 metric tonnes of vegetables to be sold via its 168 outlets.
Prices of vegetables
Green chilli: 65
Organic big chilli: 400
Ladies finger: 30
Bitter gourd: 55