Despite exemptions announced by the state governments for essential services, the supply of vegetables and fruits to the city is expected to be hit, as the administration of the Maharashtra Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) has decided to close down its wholesale market in Vashi from March 25 to March 31.
While the APMC’s fruits and vegetables markets will be closed from March 25, the other wholesale markets dealing in grains, spices, onions and potatoes was shut from Monday.
The decision was taken on Monday after reviewing the current scenario amid the rising number of coronavirus cases in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and other parts of Maharashtra.
Sanjay Pansare, director of the APMC fruit market said that the move was necessitated owing to a low turnout of retailers at the market. Since fruits and vegetables are perishable commodities, they cannot be stored for long, he said.
“The turnout of retailers at the market is very low over the last four days and vegetables that arrived on Friday and Saturday are still lying at the market. The remaining vegetables and fruits will be sold out today and tomorrow, as it cannot be stored for a long time,” said Pansare. He said prices of vegetables at the APMC market had dropped, and traders there were suffering losses.
The Mumbai APMC situated in Vashi supplies vegetables, fruits and other essential commodities to Navi Mumbai, Thane, Mumbai, Palghar, as well as Vasai-Virar. As the major supply of vegetables will be stopped, people in these urban areas will have to rely on local supply.
“The local production within the periphery of Mumbai is very less, and people will have a tough time,” said a trader from the vegetable market.
“After street vendors were stopped, vegetables and fruits piled up in the market,” said Shankar Pingle, director, the vegetable market at APMC. Street vendors, most of who hail from the Northern and Eastern parts of the country left the city amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Pansare said that farmers have been informed that they should not send fruits and vegetables until further notice. More than 5,000 traders, as well as 30,000 mathadi workers (head loaders) and other stakeholders are attached to APMC.
“The fruit, vegetables, potato, and onion trader association in APMC has taken this suo-motu initiative in the wake of the corona outbreak. We will not accept any agricultural produce. Therefore, farmers should not bring their produce to the market during this period,” Pingle said.
“We are working on Tuesday and from Wednesday, we will not work. Therefore we appeal to all to stock vegetables for next week,” Pingle added.
The market yard sees 500-700 trucks of fruit and vegetables daily. “As 90 per cent of labourers have gone to their native villages due to the fear of coronavirus, we are already facing acute shortage of labour force. Therefore, to save traders, labourers and farmers from coronavirus, we decided to close the market for one week,” he said.
Earlier, APMC had decided to keep the market closed on every Thursday for cleaning and disinfection of the market to prevent the spread of coronavirus.