An unusual silence permeates the city’s iconic wholesale flower market.
Flower stalls have closed their shutters, with the market association officially announcing the closure of all shops until March 31. However, sellers say they have no idea when they will be able to reopen their stores as the lockdown officially ends on April 14.
The coronavirus outbreak couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time – vendors couldn’t do business before Ugadi, and they’re unlikely to do business on Sri Rama Navami, which falls on April 2 . “These two festivals are crucial for us because after Rama Navami there are no big festivals for months,” the vendors said.
The market only picks up momentum during Sravana Masam, when women come in large numbers to buy flowers for Varalakshmi Vratam. This year, Sravana Masam starts the last week of July, and markets are unlikely to recover by then. This means that vendors will have to wait for Dasara, which is the busiest time of year for them.
“I can do business worth ₹30,000 if I work from 5am to 10pm on some days too,” said Qaja, a flower vendor. However, he is quick to add that the flower business is highly volatile and not performing as expected.
“Although the market receives jasmine during the summer and has good demand, sellers are unlikely to come out of losses,” said Basha, another flower seller.
According to reports, the flower market is supplied by Bengaluru, Kolar (Karnataka), Kuppam in Chittoor district and Tadepalligudem in Guntur district. On normal days, flower arrivals fluctuate between 250 MT and 400 MT. During Dasara, arrivals exceed 800 MT. There are more than 80 stores in the market, and each store receives three to five tons of flowers every day.
Wholesale Flower Merchants’ Association chairman Sheik Jani said flower merchants and commissionaires fear losses of between ₹15,000 and ₹20,000 every day due to the lockdown. Daily market workers and small vendors who sell the flowers on the roadside would also suffer. As the market must be closed at 12 p.m. due to confinement, the association has decided to close all businesses until March 31.
“Flowers are more perishable than vegetables. We cannot sell the flowers the next day and have no choice but to throw them away. That is why we completely lowered our flaps with a view to minimizing our losses,” he said.