Oppressive heat and spiralling prices appear not to have diminished the fervour of Vishu that presage a time of prosperity, symbolised by flaming ‘konna' flowers and the golden ‘kani vellari.'

“Prices have hardened and the celebrations will pinch, but we won't go without them,” says Renish, young IT industry employee pointing to a stack of fire crackers on his veranda and his two children, who appear only too eager to put them to good use on Vishu eve.

For a housewife like Jayanti, putting together a lunch on Vishu after a long-standing tradition is an entirely different proposal to the fire crackers.

She will surely pick and choose, differentiating between the essential and the non-essential.

For, these are difficult times. Prices of rice, wheat, sugar, among others, appear to have stabilised but are at much higher level than they were last year.

The Vishu-eve marketing frenzy has helped heat vegetable prices too.

Cowpea (achinga) was selling at Rs. 35 a kg in the wholesale market here and at Rs. 40 or more in the retail market. Bhindi, beans, carrot and bitter gourd too ruled high, the prices largely being propped up by a scarcity of supplies.

On Vishu eve, however, there was ample supply, the Ernakulam wholesale market having received 14 loads of vegetables and another 15 loads of bananas (Nendran). A lorry load is between 12 and 14 tonnes.

There was no shortage of vegetables, said general secretary of the Ernakulam Market Stall Owners' Association N. H. Shameed.

Sources in Horticorp and Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam indicated that the Vishu demand had added to the spiral. A shortage of supplies, triggered in recent weeks by pest attacks, has helped prolong the trend. The Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation and the Consumerfed-Nafed combination have eased the situation significantly with kits containing essential items being sold at subsidised rates.

Chairman and Managing Director of Supplyco Yogesh Gupta said that 1,310 stores were open even on Wednesday to meet the Vishu shopping rush.

The Corporation had also opened three special Vishu fairs in Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam and Kozhikode.

Supplyco has been distributing Vishu kits actually costing Rs. 270 at Rs. 200. The kit sale has been brisk, said Mr. Gupta.

Consumerfed is distributing the Easy Kits supplied by Nafed, containing 20 essential items.

A senior official of Consumerfed said that there was big demand for the Easy Kits and that in the future the items in the kits would be altered to suit the special demand in Kerala.

Keywords: Vishu festival

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