Coronavirus outbreak: Vashi's APMC shut down leads to confusion, brace yourself for 3-day veggie shortage

Updated: Apr 11, 2020, 07:50 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav, Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

As people look to stock up on vegetables due to the closure of the wholesale market in Vashi, local vendors - who are being driven away by police - say the next three days will see further shortage

There was a long queue outside a 24-hour DMart branch at Thakur Village in Kandivli on Friday. Pics/Satej Shinde
There was a long queue outside a 24-hour DMart branch at Thakur Village in Kandivli on Friday. Pics/Satej Shinde

AS Vashi's APMC shuts down until further notice from today, Mumbaikars face the daunting task of where to get fresh vegetables and fruits. Shopkeepers and vendors also face losses as many claimed the police told them to shut shop from Friday itself. Many customers returned empty-handed, some after waiting for hours.

However, in some assurance for citizens, the minister for co-operation and marketing said there is a plan to supply grains and veggies to co-operative housing societies. The Mumbai Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) in Vashi on Friday came out with a letter in which it mentioned that the market of vegetables, fruits, onions and potatoes to the city will remain closed until further orders from April 11. The action comes after a spice trader at the market tested positive for COVID-19.

But from Friday itself, it was observed that vendors were not being allowed to do business by the police, and many markets were allegedly asked to shut down. The vendors are not happy with the sudden decision as they will suffer huge losses. Many people who had gone to markets returned empty handed.

shop owner Gopal Gupta from Irla FC Road said he will face huge losses
Shop owner Gopal Gupta from Irla FC Road said he will face huge losses

mid-day's reporters visited a few vegetable and fruit markets in the city and suburbs and found that many shops were either closed or were asked to be closed. The vendors also told mid-day that the veggies and fruits lying in their shops would rot.

Ranjana Nimvat from the Juhu vegetable market said the police closed it on Friday afternoon. "This caused a lot of inconvenience for our regular customers as they don't have a stock of vegetables and fruits at their homes. I know that the government is doing this for the safety of people but they should try and keep a slot for two hours so that people can go and buy vegetables and fruits."

Vendors face losses

Fresh Mango Shop owner Gopal Gupta from Irla FC road said, "There is no denying the fact that the government is taking all the best possible efforts to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, but I think it would have been better if they had informed us at least a week in advance, so we would not have stocked fruits and vegetables. My shop is operational today but from tomorrow it will be shut. I have a stock worth over R2-3 lakh inside the shop, especially mangoes." Many vendors complained that the police asked them to shut shop on Friday itself. Monu Chouhan, a roadside vegetables vendor at Lokhandwala said, "On Friday the police told us that we should head back home and try to sell the remaining vegetables from the carts while returning."

Cops followed BMC orders?

Asked about the vendors claims, a police official from the western suburbs said, "It is true that some vegetable and fruit markets were closed in the Friday morning and afternoon in the western suburbs by the police, but the same was done on the instructions of the BMC ward office in each area."

Agarwal Market Lane at Vile Parle where many shops and vendors stalls were closed on Friday. PICS/Satej Shinde
Agarwal Market Lane at Vile Parle where many shops and vendors stalls were closed on Friday. 

Officials of the R Central ward of BMC has also written a letter to the Borivali police station, Kasturba Marg police station, MHB Police station , Dahisar police station and Charkop police station saying that the municipal commissioner, during a video conference with ward officials on April 7 had instructed that the vegetables and fruit vendors on roads and footpaths be barred from doing business.

No essentials in markets

While some shops were open, some locals faced issues of stocks running out. Andheri resident Karan Bhatia, who visited the Sahakari Bhandar in Andheri East, said, "Although the place is very well organised, the queues were super long and it was only after a two-hour wait that I got to go in. But by then they had run out of some basics like salt, masalas, potatoes, onions and fruits. People are stocking up because they know the Vashi market is going to shut and they know from the situation that the lockdown is likely to be extended."

In Dadar there were serpentine queues despite the shortage of stocks in shops. "The vegetable vendors have said that nothing will be available for the next three days. My staff returned with an empty shopping bag after waiting in queue for two hours at four different stores. The first three stores were out of everything while the fourth had only two of the four items that I wanted," said a Dadar resident. The resident further pointed out that some vendors were throwing away crates of vegetables since they had perished.

However, some other areas across the city saw a steady supply of fruits, vegetables and eggs. On Friday, some vegetable stores were open in pockets in and around Bandra, Andheri and Juhu.

Monu and Sonu Chouhan, vendors at Lokhandwala
Monu and Sonu Chouhan, vendors at Lokhandwala 

Deane de Menezes, a resident of Wadala, said, "All the local vegetable vendors have been asked to move into a BMC park located near Wadala station. It is really nicely organised and people are selling everything from eggs, fruits, vegetables and masks. One person even has a vada pav stall. I had been to the regular vegetable market the day after the lockdown was announced and it was really packed and everybody was panic buying, including myself. But at this market is there is barely any crowding. Masks are being worn and people practice social distancing.'

Online delivery troubled

Most e-commerce platforms that promise to deliver vegetables and fruits seem to be facing hurdles of their own. Either their numbers cannot be reached or the phones are simply ringing with no answer.

Some other places, like hypermarkets, have set a pre-recorded message that urges customers to contact them on their Facebook page, given the high volume of incoming calls they are currently receiving.

In some places, political party leaders are coming forward to help housing societies by making arrangements for vegetables.

Minister-speak

Talking to mid-day, Minister for Cooperation and Marketing Balasaheb Patil said, "The supply of food grains and vegetables to cooperative housing societies through our Maharashtra Cooperative Development Corporation limited website has already started in Pune and adjoining areas. We are taking the best of efforts to start the same in the coming days in Mumbai too and instructions for the same have already been given to the concerned officials."

However, another government official said that so far there has been no decision on the losses to shopkeepers and vendors.

The Department of Co-operation and Marketing has already come up with a Google form through which cooperative housing societies can buy vegetables and food grains which will be delivered to them. The Shiv Sena's Abhishek Ghosalkar from Dahisar West, sent a message to the housing societies in his area, explaining the procedure in it to get grains and vegetables.

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