It’s seven in the morning. Traders, commission agents and farmers have just got into sale and purchase mode at Azadpur mandi, the country’s biggest wholesale fruit and vegetable (F&V) market. The trading volume has taken a hit due to the cash crunch, but the market participants don’t fret much. “If I am building a new pucca house in place of my hut, I would have to cope with temporary pain of displacement,” one of them told FE, mindful of the “good days to come” once the corrupt are nailed, reports Sandip Das in New Delhi.
Raj Kumar Bhatia, general secretary, chamber of the Azadpur Fruit and Vegetable Traders Association, said there has been a 10-20% drop in arrivals of F&Vs in Azadpur because of the shortage of legal-tender currency notes.
“The government must ensure that small traders are not impacted. The supply of new currency should be improved on a priority basis,” Bhatia, who has been a trader for the last 32 years, said. According to an estimate, there are around 30,000 small F&V traders in Azadpur market and its four sub-mandis alone. Besides, an equal number of people are engaged as labourers.
While most traders have been paying farmers who have brought their produce from northern states with old R500 and R1,000 notes even after the demonetisation, a sizeable segment of the trade has since been done on credit. With the shortage of currency, daily trading, which used to get over by around 11 am at a frenetic pace, is now being extended by a couple of more hours as most neighbourhood vegetable and fruit vendors have run out of cash.
Nirmala Devi, 58, who sells vegetables at Loni on the eastern Delhi border after purchasing it from Azadpur every day, is feeling the pinch, but is more than willing to endure it for the greater good. Devi used to earn R200-250 daily after selling vegetables prior to the government announcing demonetisation of R500 and R1,000 notes. Her daily earnings have dropped sharply. Yet, she told FE, “this is a temporary shortage of notes to deal with black money and over the next couple of weeks there will be increase in supplies of currency notes.”
Sunil Kumar, who hails from Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh, used to purchase and sell around 20 quintals of onion and other vegetables on a daily basis. His business also is down by a quarter as he could not pay farmers for the last few days. Kumar, again, agree that “for a bigger cause, small sacrifices are necessary”. However, Mohammad Irfan, who sells snacks inside the mandi premise, has been unhappy because of the drop in his sales after labourers refused to turn up for unloading of F&Vs. “This move has hit people like us the most as we depend on mandis for earning our livelihood,” he said.
The Azadpur mandi supplies more than 15,000 tonnes of F&Vs to Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) on a daily basis, besides catering to consumers in most northern Indian cities. Meanwhile, the government on Thursday allowed farmers who have taken crop loan or have kisan credit card to withdraw R25,000 per week from their accounts. It has also extended the deadline for payment of crop insurance premium by 15 days and permitted APMC-registered traders to withdraw up to R50,000 per week.