Srinagar: After bearing losses last year due to the Covid-19 lockdown, uncertainty stil looms large before dealers and sellers of dates in the valley, this time due to the second wave of the coronavirus.
Last year during Ramadan the J&K government had imposed strict restrictions and banned all religious activities across Jammu and Kashmir. Usually, dates remain in high demand during this month across the valley, but last year there were almost no takers as people remained restricted to their homes and preferred to eat only a small quantity of dates, that too after washing and purifying them properly.
Due to which, dealers say, they had to suffer losses worth lakhs of rupees after the huge stock of dates remained unsold. “Huge quantity of dates simply turned into trash last year. At a minimum, there was a loss of about 8 to 10 lakhs of rupees for every dealer. Though some quantity of dates sold off, but largely the dates remained untouched,” Javaid Ahmad, a dry fruit seller at Koker-Bazaar in Srinagar, told Kashmir Reader.
A year after, the dealers and sellers of dates in Kashmir are yet to get back to their routine business. The dealers say that they were procuring only a limited quantity of dates this year keeping in mind the losses suffered last year.
“We usually bring two trucks full of dates every year. But this year, we have only brought one truck. There is a lot of uncertainty in our business even today. Though there isn’t any lockdown but we can’t underestimate the situation. We have to bear all the factors in mind keeping in view the surging cases of Covid-19 in Kashmir and its possible implications,” Wakeel Ahmad Bhat, a well-known dry fruit seller in Koker-Bazaar, told Kashmir Reader.
Due to the reduction in quantity of dates, Wakeel added, their monthly sales had slashed by almost 50%. “Our sales even touched one crore rupees during Ramadan month, but this year it hardly seems to touch 30-40 lakhs,” said Wakeel.
The famous Koker-Bazaar in Srinagar city popular for dates, which usually remains abuzz with customers, is experiencing less rush of customers as compared to previous years. “Despite there being no lockdown, very less number of customers are turning up at this market. During the initial days of Ramadan, we used to witness huge rush of people. No such rush can be witnessed now. Normally, I used to remain engaged to such an extent that I couldn’t afford to take a break of a minute. But still, Alhamdullilah for everything, we look forward for the same old rush ahead,” Wakeel added.
Several types of dates usually sell in Kashmir including both high-range and lower-range ones, popular among them being Ajwa, Mabroom, Kalmi, Sudayi, Sukhri, Amber and Medjol. Dealers say that high-end dates are fetching relatively higher demands this year, attributing this to the impact of Covid-19 which has made people health-conscious.
“Mostly high-end dates are selling, rather than the lower-end ones. The Ajwa dates are selling at 1200/kg, Mabroom 900/kg, Kalmi 600/kg, Sudayi 700/kg, Sukhri 700/kg, Amber 1100/kg and Merjol 1300//kg. These dates are currently in high demand. Due to Covid-19, people want to consume better quality of dates which are healthy and help them in building their immunity,” Bilal Ahmad, a dates seller in the same market, told Kashmir Reader.
However, some wholesale dealers said that the demand for the dates was good and retailers were taking the dates in bulk to avoid frequent visits amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Business is so good, they said, that the prices of high-end dates had gone up by 10%-15% this year.
“Our business is doing fine, demand for dates is good. Last year we did almost no business but this year our business is limping back to normal. The prices of certain high-end dates including Ajwa and Kalmi have gone up by 10%-15% and still the demands keep coming. The sales are flowing at a good pace,” Gh Mohammad, a wholesale shopkeeper in Anantnag, told Kashmir Reader.
In Ramadan month, dates are of paramount importance as they are consumed at the time of Iftaar, the time of breaking the fast. After fasting for the entire day, Muslims across the world traditionally break their fast with dates, which is referred to as “Khezir” in native Kashmiri language.