Vendors have hiked the price by almost Rs. 10

As if the heat was not bad enough, Chennaiites, who swear by the soothing effect of a tender-coconut, have more to grumble about as this source of much-needed relief has just turned dearer. Most vendors in the city have, in the past weeks, increased the price of tender coconuts to Rs. 30. Some even charge Rs. 35 for a particularly prosperous-looking fruit. The coconuts used to cost Rs. 20-25 till recently. “We pay at least Rs. 25 to our wholesaler to buy the fruits. We need some profit margin, right?” asked N. Ranganathan, who has been selling tender coconuts for over three decades now.

Tracking inflation over the years, he said, “When I began my career soon after I finished class X, I would sell it for Rs. 2. The price went up a bit every year, but this year, the increase is particularly sharp,” he said, attributing to the rise to mounting freight charges. The increase in fuel prices has also almost immediately had an impact.  

According to wholesale traders in Koyambedu, the tender coconuts market in Chennai does not have an organised wholesale market. Vendors said much of the trade is controlled by a group of wholesalers who source tender coconuts from various places, with Pollachi the main centre. While Kerala also has a significant produce of good quality tender coconuts, local vendors said they are virtually out of reach, for the freight charges would be far higher.

Mr. Ranganathan said the fruits from Pollachi are big and often of very good quality, with the water tasting sweet. “We also get some cheaper ones from Puducherry, but most of them are shrunk and small. I sell them for Rs.15,” he said, pointing to a heap of smaller coconuts on the pavement near his cart in Egmore while the bigger ones from Pollachi have the pride of place on his cart.

Vendors such as him purchase about 200-300 coconuts from the traders – who usually cater to different localities in Chennai — and then pay them selling them over the next two to three days. “I pay my trader after selling 100 fruits. That's Rs. 2,500, right? After paying my trader, I'll be left with Rs.700-800 per day,” he said, adding that no matter how much the price goes up, there is enough business.

There will be as long as there is such heat, concurred young banker Sowmiya Sudhakar, who had hopped across the road from her office to take an ‘Ilaneer break'. “I do not have aerated drinks and there is no better way to beat the heat. I don't really mind paying a bit extra. It is also considered healthier,” she said. That is really the secret behind our business' success, said Mr. Ranganathan. “From people who come in the most expensive cars to those who walk, people in this city can't do without this drink.”

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Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012