A group of good Samaritans charge Rs20 for a bag of fresh fruit in the Jail Chowrangi area and (right) vendors in Saddar charge premium rates on Friday. —Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
A group of good Samaritans charge Rs20 for a bag of fresh fruit in the Jail Chowrangi area and (right) vendors in Saddar charge premium rates on Friday. —Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: Fruit markets all over the city are the main go-to places during Ramazan. The iftar table cannot be set without fresh fruits, especially in a home with children and the elderly.

According to health experts, fruits provide the body with the much-needed nourishment and maintain blood glucose levels following a day of fasting, something which fried and carbohydrate containing foods can never compare with.

This Ramazan the most bought fruit has to be the variety of melons and bananas. It could be because the cantaloupe, watermelon and garma hydrate better in this heat. It could also be because they are slightly cheaper than the strawberries, peaches, cheeku (sapodilla), apples, oranges and papayas. The banana, of course, is supposed to be there in all seasons like apples, but its price is different in different places.

In DHA, a dozen bananas were selling for Rs120 and in a place like a Juma bazaar in Korangi No 5 it was selling at Rs40 to 50 a dozen. And yet, the vendors in Korangi were having a hard time selling the fruit.

Mohammad Saleem Arain had a little knife in his hand as he went about examining bunches of bananas to separate the good pieces from the rotten ones on his cart outside the Juma bazaar in Korangi.

This Ramazan the most bought fruit has to be the variety of melons and bananas

“I didn’t sell any bananas yesterday. I must have made a loss of about Rs5,000. Now I have come here to see if I can sell some at this weekly market,” he told Dawn.

Asked what he was going to do about the rotten bananas, he gestured towards a rectangle shaped low cement wall. “I’ll just dump it all there. It is for the donkeys, goats, cows and buffaloes here. They can enjoy a free feast,” he smiled.

Nearby, there were the cantaloupe and watermelon carts. In fact, there was hardly anything else available in the fruit sellers’ area other than banana and watermelon.

Mohammad Farhan said that he had two kinds of cantaloupe. “Number one variety for Rs40 per kilogramme, and number two variety for Rs30 per kilogramme. We are selling at a cheaper rate than the last year but we are still not getting many customers,” he said.

When asked why, he said that whenever they try persuading customers, they say they can’t afford fruit. “They say they need to buy food and fruit is a luxury that they cannot afford every day. Their daily fruit is a little date piece to break their fast with. And we also understand,” the vendor said sadly.

Asked if it would be better to try selling in a posh area, he shook his head. “No, it’s okay. This is where we have been selling for years. And, quite frankly, the poor man still buys more fruit and other food items than rich people, I feel,” he shrugged.

The fruit prices were relatively higher in DHA and Clifton.

Allah Ditta, who runs a fruit shop in the Phase-II commercial area announced all the prices, which were at his fingertips. “Strawberry for Rs400 per kilogramme,” he announced though when he noticed a customer roll her eyes he changed it to: “Rs100 per pao [quarter kg].” And she bought two boxes.

“Papaya is for Rs180, cheeku Rs200, kinnow Rs200 to 250 depending on the quality, mausambi [orange] Rs240, peach Rs300, watermelon Rs50, cantaloupe Rs80, garma Rs120, guava Rs350, apples red Rs240 and green Rs200 a kilogramme and the bananas are for Rs120 a dozen,” he announced happily.

“So you expect people to buy one banana for Rs20,” asked an aged customer carrying a new handmade basket. “Sir, think of it this way. How much do you pay for a little box of juice? And mind you, that juice is also not pure and contains preservatives,” the fruit seller pointed out to the customer, who was shaking his head in disapproval.

“There are people in Empress Market buying only six bananas and half a watermelon because they want to have something healthy and fresh for their family at iftar. You people should not be selling fruits at such high prices,” he said, before asking the man to get him some red apples, oranges and cheeku.

“You see,” the fruit vendor said after the customer had left. “As Maghreb time approaches my customers would increase. They buy fruit anyway, cheap or expensive. That said, I don’t think we are expensive at all,” he said.

A driver there who had a list of fruits to buy for his employers was listening to the conversations. “I have come here to buy what I have been sent to get by my Begum Sahab. For myself I have another place to buy fruit from,” he said.

“The fruit vendors on either side of Shahrah-i-Iraq in Saddar drop their rates after Taraweeh prayers. It is do or die for them then. Being on the receiving end of their own created inflation, they are eager to sell quickly or be left with rotting fruit the next day,” he laughed. “That’s when and where I buy all the fruit I need for my family.”

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2021

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