Wholesale flower market loses sheen

Vendors down shutters to minimise losses

An unusual silence pervades the city’s iconic wholesale flower market.

Flower stalls have downed their shutters with the market association formally announcing a closure of all shops till March 31. However, vendors say that they have no clue when they will be able to reopen their shops as the lockdown formally ends on April 14.

The coronavirus outbreak could not have come at a more inopportune time — the vendors could not do any business ahead of Ugadi, and are unlikely to do any business on Sri Rama Navami too, which falls on April 2. “These two festivals are crucial for us because after Rama Navami, there are no major festivals for months,” vendors said.

The market again gains momentum only during Sravana Masam, when women come in large numbers to buy flowers for Varalakshmi Vratam. This year, Sravana Masam begins in the last week of July, and it is unlikely that the markets recover by then. This means the vendors will have to wait till Dasara, which is the busiest time of the year for them.

“I am able to do business worth ₹30,000 if I work from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., that too on some days,” said Qaja, a flower vendor. However, he is quick to add that the flower business is highly volatile and does not go according to expectations.

“Though the market receives jasmine during summer and has good demand, it is unlikely that the vendors would come out of the losses,” said Basha, another flower vendor.

According to information, the flower market receives supplies from Bengaluru, Kolar (Karnataka), Kuppam in Chittoor district, and Tadepalligudem in Guntur district. On normal days, the flower arrivals range between 250 MT and 400 MT. During Dasara, arrivals go beyond 800 MT. There are more than 80 shops in the market, and each shop receives three to five MT of flowers every day.

Wholesale Flower Merchants’ Association president Sheik Jani said that the flower merchants and commission agents are fearing losses between ₹15,000 to ₹20,000 every day due to the lockdown. The daily wage workers at the market and the petty vendors who sell the flowers on the roadside would also suffer. As the market would have to be closed by 12 noon due to the lockdown, the association has decided to close down all shops till March 31.

“Flowers are more perishable than vegetables. We cannot sell the flowers the next day and have no option but to dump them. This is why we have downed our shutters completely with a view to minimising our losses,” he said.

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