Mixed response to fruit boycott as prices come down on first day

Published June 3, 2017
NATURE’S bounty — beyond the reach of many — being sold in the Saddar area on Friday.—White Star
NATURE’S bounty — beyond the reach of many — being sold in the Saddar area on Friday.—White Star

KARACHI: To keep away the flies from partially cut watermelons, many fruit vendors in the city had to wrap up the melons with plastic sheets as customers were rare on day one of the three-day boycott of buying fruit on Friday.

The boycott was called by civil society and the urban middle class due to increase in prices of fresh fruit by up to 300 per cent during the month of Ramazan. This is also the time of year when the biggest choice in seasonal fruit is available. Apart from mango, the king of fruits, there are watermelons, cantaloupe, peaches, plums, sapodilla (chikoo), apricots, papaya, guava, jamun and falsa; the rates of all these seasonal favourites have shot up.

“It is not my fault that bananas are for Rs200 a dozen right now. If I get something expensive from the fruit market, I will also sell it for more according to that rate keeping my own profit in mind,” said a banana seller at Empress Market. “Why would I sell the fruit cheaper and make a loss? Why do you people want to punish me for something that is done elsewhere? I am not the commissioner of Karachi, I don’t prepare the commodity price lists,” he added looking frustrated, as he said that the bananas on his cart were going to rot if no one bought them.

Problem is with those who set the prices at the fruit market, say vendors

Meanwhile, on Shahrah-i-Iraq, at least two banana vendors started selling the fruit for Rs150 and even as low as Rs110. Still, no one was buying from them. One vendor pulled out his cart and decided to try his luck on some other road.

Though the fruit sellers at Burnes Road had no customers, as far as the seasonal fruits were concerned the response to the boycott was somewhat mixed at Empress Market and Shahrah-i-Iraq, where they were also available in huge quantities.

“Even if I can’t afford to buy fruit in kilograms or by the dozen, I will still buy in grams. It is Friday today and my six-year-old son is observing his first fast. How can there not be fruit on the table?” said a mother looking for a small cantaloupe on a vendor’s cart.

Just before leaving, she looked longingly at another cart with apricots, peaches and plums. Asking the vendor how much he was selling the plums for and hearing that he was selling them for Rs400 per kg, she quietly turned her gaze away and walked up to the banana seller to search for one or two good pieces from the pile of rotting bananas.

“Fruit from Sindh and Punjab is expensive but the watermelons on my cart are from Quetta, Chaman and Kabul. And they are not as expensive as the other fruit so people are buying from me,” said one vendor at Empress Market.

“I am slowly going down. This morning I tried selling for Rs60 per kg and no one was interested in buying from me. Now after trying to sell at Rs50, I have gone down to Rs30, which is half price of what’s written on the price list,” said another vendor selling cantaloupe.

“He is selling Sindhri for Rs50 per kg. Earlier, it was for Rs150 so, yes, I’m buying,” said another female customer trying to select the bigger pieces among the smallest Sindhri mangoes that one had ever seen.

But at another vendor’s cart, two men on motorcycles were taking home several kilograms of mangoes. He said he also felt bad about selling the fruit at high rates but the problem was at the roots, with those who set the prices at the fruit market and not with him.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2017

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