Life is not so rosy anymore for flower vendors in the Chala market. The stretch from Aryasala to Sannidhi Mukku was once the most sought-after place in the city to buy flowers to adorn “Pookkalams” (flower patterns) during Onam. The bylane was an explosion of floral colours, spreading joy and fragrance.
The varying moods of nature, fluctuation in prices of flowers in the procurement areas in the neighbouring States of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and most important, stiff competition from florists in other parts of the city have created deep dents in their business, and in turn, affected their livelihood.
“We used to make a fortune in the 10 days leading up to Onam. There are some 25 florists on the stretch and most of them have been in the business for years. Earlier, we used to earn Rs.2,000 to Rs.3,000 a day during the period. Now, even if we manage to do half the business, it’s a great achievement,” says Ramesh, who has inherited the business from his father. “Earlier, the flower business used to be mainly centred on the Chala market, but now you get flowers in different parts of the city,” Sahadevan, another florist, says. The rain in the days before Atham, the first day of the festival when people start creating the floral patterns, has dampened business, he adds.
The merchants at Chala procure flowers from Thovala in Tamil Nadu, mainly jasmine, marigold, chrysanthemum, oleander and tuberose.
Flowers such as button rose and Dutch rose come from Bangalore, Nemom Radhakrishnan, vice-president of the Thiruvananthapuram Florists’ Association, says. Now people have started buying flowers directly from Thovala, he adds.
A dip in flower supply, due to conversion of farmlands, particularly in Tamil Nadu, coupled with the increase in transport charge, has led to a steep increase in the price of flowers, Mr. Ramesh says. “Flowers that cost about Rs.50 a kg on a normal day fetch Rs. 80 a kg during Onam,” he adds.
The merchants hope to get bulk orders starting Wednesday from government offices, schools, colleges, private firms, residents’ associations and clubs for creating floral arrangements and competitions, Mr Radhakrishnan says.
“The demand is expected to go up in the next few days as there would be a number of floral competitions held as part of the Onam celebrations,” he adds.