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.
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.
Mid-sized trader leaving with his stock
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?