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The demonetisation of Rs 500 and 1,000 notes has turned out to be a double whammy for Chennai’s Koyambedu Market, which is one of Asia’s largest perishable goods markets. The market has suffered 50 per cent dip in sales over the last one week while tonnes of rotting vegetable and fruits have made the situation worse. Garbage collection lorries have been working overtime to collect the trash from the market that caters to Chennai and areas within a 100-km radius.
Wholesale merchants are estimated to have been suffering daily loss of Rs 50 crore while the retail business has come to a standstill; vendors have no currency to conduct business or pay daily wages to over 20,000 workers.
K Soundarapandian, a merchant, said that the daily business of the market was worth over Rs 100 crore, which has dipped to less than half.
“Thousands of workers remain unpaid, some are sleeping at the market while some have left for their homes. As the weekly withdrawal limit of current accounts is limited to Rs 50,000, we could not pay the suppliers.’’ He added that vegetable prices too have plummeted by 50 or 60 percent.
Fruit merchant M Durai said that the average fruit business, which was worth Rs 10 to Rs 15 crore, has now dropped to less than Rs 4 crore in a week. “…the stocks are becoming a heap of garbage.’’ He said they import fruits from places like Australia on a weekly basis.
Many shops at the market were closed on Thursday. Vendors were mostly sleeping at the opened shops amid heaps of rotting fruits and vegetables. “We cannot sustain this business on a credit system for more than four days unless there is a flow of cash.’’
Harikrishnan, a wholesaler who was left with 400 kg perishable goods on Thursday, said he has been in the business since 1996. “We have gone through many crisis periods. But this is the worst. I am not even allowed to withdraw cash from my account. If this is how (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi wants to bring prosperity, let him come and take over this market. I am ready to work under him for a salary.’’ He added that he has been able to sell only 10 kg onion in 24 hours.
Vendor Miniammal, 65, said that she procured some vegetables worth Rs 600 on Wednesday hoping that things will improve. “I borrowed money… Still I could sell only vegetables worth Rs 100 over two days. Hardly anyone came here. What I ate today were unsold carrots and tomatoes,” said Miniammal, who neither has an ID proof nor a bank account.
Kudiyarassu, 35, who sells banana leaves — an essential item for hoteliers and catering agencies — said even his regular customers have stopped purchases. Over 10 bundles of banana leaves worth over Rs 3,000 were lying in his shop. Kudiyarassu used to sell over 30 bundles daily. He said there was an 80 per cent dip in his business as restaurants were largely empty.
“These leaves will not last for more than two days. As I do not have the currency to pay my workers, they have stopped working,’’ he said. “I too have stopped sourcing. The remaining 10 bundles will go in garbage trucks.’’
Merchant N Selvaraj said that the banana leaves business, which used to be worth over Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh daily, has reduced to less than Rs 3 lakh since Tuesday. “Not just restaurants, even catering units too have stopped purchase as many marriages and functions have been cancelled. Most of the 150 shops selling banana leaves here have closed now. We do not know what is exactly is happening in this country.’’