Saturday, June 20, 2009

I visit the Wholesale Market at Vashi

- By Deepa Krishnan
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Ever since the wholesale market moved from Byculla to Vashi, I've been wanting to go there. On a recent trip to New Bombay, my friend Satyen took me to see what is officially called The Mumbai Agricultural Produce Market.
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Exterior view - one small section of the market.

Even before we went in, I realised I was going to see a big market, but as we kept driving along, I realised that this market was literally endless! Nothing had prepared me for the sheer scale of what I saw.

The agricultural produce market covers all of 170 acres (hah! and I had originally believed I could explore it on foot!). There are a staggering 3700 godowns, 1500 commercial blocks, 4 large auction halls, 2 giant warehouses, and 5 large wholesale market yards. Apart from this, there are big processing centres - a vapour heat treatment plant, ripening facilities, cold storage facilities, an export facilitation centre and so on.

To me, it was like seeing a vast new exciting trading town, where trucks trundled in with every conceivable type of agricultural produce from the country. I could see hundreds of farmers, in their white Gandhi-topis. There were many women too, in their traditional Maharashtrian sarees. There were literally thousands of workers, transporting bags of produce. It was only much later, when I saw the website of the market committee, that I discovered that this is Asia's largest regulated market for agricultural produce.

As we drove around, Satyen pointed out to me that there is not one market, but five different markets. Market I is dedicated to spices and condiments, sugar, jaggery and dry fruits. Market II is where trading in foodgrains (rice, wheat) and pulses takes place. Then there's the popular "kanda-batata markit" - The Onion and Potato Market, which was the earliest to be set up. Other than these, there are two more markets, the Fruit Market and the Vegetable Market. For a "city girl" like me, it was like getting a glimpse into an alien world.

After the first few minutes of driving around, I gave up trying to grasp it all, and just enjoyed the atmosphere of the place. At the vegetable and fruit markets, I couldn't resist getting out of the car and clicking a few photographs.

Gujarati housewives at the wholesale vegetable market
The first thing I noticed were some enterprising housewives, who had come to buy their weekly store of vegetables at wholesale prices. Satyen explained that some housing societies had formed groups, so that they could come here to this market and purchase in bulk for their needs.

Weighing scales on truck
I walked around to the backside of a truck to see what was happening. Jackfruit was being unloaded from the truck. Before the unloading, it was being weighed in a basket. This is a regulated market - that means that the weighing instruments are provided by the market, and there are fixed rates for the people doing the unloading.

Green chillies inside the vegetable market
The chillies come from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. These men were waiting with their stock of chillies, looking for buyers.
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Old man in 'Gandhi-topi' examining brinjals from Bangalore.
I think he was a retail shopkeeper who had come to the market to buy his stock, because behind him were all the other vegetables that he had purchased, tied in plastic bags.

Several women were in the market, haggling over prices.
Some of them looked like local shop-keepers to me, while others looked like they were buying for their own use.

Mango crates amidst hay in the fruit market

This man had purchased two crates of mangoes, and paid someone to carry it to his truck. The 'hamaali' or labour rate per 'peti' (box) is Rs 2.5.

Mini-truck leaving the market

This smaller truck was loaded with gunny sacks of various vegetables, and was leaving the market to go into the city. The 'hamaali' for one gunny sack is Rs 5.

Vegetable seller leaving the market with small amount of stock.
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Mid-sized trader leaving with his stock
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Over 12000 tonnes of agri-commodities arrive daily into this market. The produce is sold by auction and the prices are noted and managed by the Mumbai Agricultural Produce Market Committee. It is the committee's responsibility to ensure that sales do not take place below the minimum price fixed by the government. They are also responsible for ensuring fair measurement and weighing, and fair charges for labour.
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I wanted to spend more time, talking to people - traders, labourers, shopkeepers, and buyers...I wanted to understand how the pricing system worked. But it was nearing noon and the sun was getting fierce. My driver Mariappan had cleverly retreated to the local canteen (that's him in the white shirt and black trousers, standing in the shade drining chai).
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So I finally called it a day, and sank gratefully into the coolness of the airconditioned car. As I dropped Satyen back home, I said to him, "I'm coming back again to Vashi! There's so much still to see!"

Want to come with me?

19 comments:

radha said...

Very nice post. We have a market in Secunderabad too - but the experience used to horrify me. At times, you felt a nudge and turned to find a buffalo right behind. But the sight of fresh food items is indeed so lovely to behold unlike the packed foodstuffs you get from a supermarket. I guess it is the convenience and comfort of shopping that takes precedence in the present day.

YellowShuttle said...

Nicely written, Deepa. I particularly like your "Haggling" picture!

-Arun

Anitha said...

Hi Deepa,

I would like to come with you. I too have this nature of knowing things for the knowledge sake.

Bye

Anitha

ravi said...

Nice post! I wish to visit vashi soon.

Ganesh said...

That's a nice bit of information. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Nice article. Incidentally, I found this website where the daily wholesale prices at the various mandis in Maharashtra are available -

http://www.msamb.com/english/apmcpri.asp

Thanks

Anonymous said...

beautifully written...a real insight...educate us more with your experience...anant

emageinc.mail@gmail.com said...

Deepa, That was really nice write up and great piece of information. I found excatly waht i was looking for. You link to ampc site was amazing too. Good Job

prasko said...

Good one!!! Well covered and all the best with your next trip.

nilam said...

HI MAM, THIS IS NILAM GOSAVI. I AM FOURTH YEAR ARCHITECTURE STUDENT, I AM DOING THESIS ON A.P.M.C. MARKET VASHI, YOUR REVIEW ON MARKET IS REALLY NICE. IT WILL SURELY HELP IN MY THESIS PROJECT. I WISH TO HAVE TALK WITH YOU AND EXPLORE MORE THINGS ABOUT THIS MARKET. THANK YOU. my email id: gosavi_nilam@yahoo.in

Mumbai Meri Jaan said...

What the best time to visit the market if you want to buy frest stock
shakeel

Deepa Krishnan said...

Shakeel I went around 11 a.m. and by that time there will still some people but mostly transactions had already been done. So I guess around 9:00 a.m. it should be ok, but I don't really know. Why don't you ask a vegetable seller? They will know the perfect answer.

Deepa Krishnan said...

Shakeel I went around 11 a.m. and by that time there will still some people but mostly transactions had already been done. So I guess around 9:00 a.m. it should be ok, but I don't really know. Why don't you ask a vegetable seller? They will know the perfect answer.

Amit Jain said...

Hi Deepa,

My name is Amit Jain and I am a Chartered Accountant. I am planning to setup a new venture which is related to vegetables. The information provided by you on the blog is really helpful. However, I am more keen in understanding the mechanism of the market. If possible, I would like to visit to the market with you or can you please provide me with some contact who can help me with respect to the understanding.

My email ID is ca_amit_jain@yahoo.co.in

Thanks and regards,

Amit Jain

Anonymous said...

Dear deepa ,
I read your artical and found it intristing and informative can you can please help me I want to know if you can give me some website where I can find daily rates of fruits and Veg in mumbai. Thanks and regards rajesh. nirmaanph@hotmail.com is my email

Amol G. Jadhao said...

Nice...Artical mam...

Krishnan V said...

This is a great post! This has inspired me to visit the Wholesale market. Thank you!

nalin said...

I am from navi mumai and i know this market well. I Just wanna know that Vashi plaza Computer hardware and software wholesale market and same market in front of vashi board office is open on sunday

padmesh said...

Twitter?

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