The weather may have put ice in demand, but frequent power cuts have meant smaller ice-making factories have not managed to ensure the supply necessary for profits. And Delhi factories, big or small, are also struggling against competition from makers outside the capital, the trending of cooling systems at the cost of ice, and the difficulty of finding low-cost labour.
“We could not meet our orders this week because our electricity systems had been hit by the thunderstorm on May 30. Our factory is running at half its capacity, producing 500 slabs instead of 1,000, and is just not being able to complete the 36-hour cooling cycle,” Rajesh Yadav, manager of Lakshmi Ice Making Factory near Kamala Nagar Market, says.
The century-old Prag Ice Factory off Old Sabzi Mandi, in contrast, has cold-storage facilities and says its profits have risen 20 per cent over the past week. “We have generators and backup, so we manage despite the power cuts,” Chander Prakash, the in-charge of storage, says.
Prakash agrees that ice-makers raise prices in peak season and says Prag is charging Rs 130 a slab, which he describes as a hike of 10 per cent. But at least one of his customers challenges that. Prabhudas “I buy around 10 slabs of ice everyday,” Motimal Talreja (60), who needs it to preserve his bananas at Shop No. 48 in Ashoka Market, says. “Prag Ice Factory has raised the price from Rs 50 to Rs 147 in the past two months.”
Ice-makers are also losing their clientele from neighbouring states. “Fish vendors, ice-cream companies, meat shop-owners in areas bordering Delhi have begun buying from suppliers in Outer Delhi. The arbitrary prices they fix are hurting our business,” Yadav says. The demand for ice has fallen over the years because many shops are fitted with cooling systems.
Rajkumar Kalra, whose banana shop at Ashoka Market is fitted with five 1.5-litre air-conditioners, says, “Ice slabs can cost me up to Rs 35,000 a month, while my electricity bills are only Rs 15,000 a month. But during a power cut, I can always fall back on ice from a factory.”