“Why this price, today of all days?” grumbles a young man, dismounting from a two-wheeler, after enquiring about the red roses packed in bright plastic buckets. His sentiment being shared by many a customer, only led to disappointment among flower vendors in Puducherry, on one of their busiest days of the year.
The stretch along S.V. Patel Salai is known for its string of half-a-dozen vendors who sell roses, lilies and orchids throughout the year. While a single red rose is priced at Rs. 15 normally, the price was doubled on occasion of Valentine’s Day this year.
“Even on New Year, when we make the most sales of the year, roses are priced at Rs. 20,”explains Jothi, a flower seller. “But today we had to price it at Rs. 30 as the price was hiked in Bangalore. And added to that is the fuel charge.” On Friday, flower vendors on the street were a crestfallen lot. Lilies, orchids and roses of other colours were occasionally bought by occasional customers, but it was the single red rose, as the epitome of love, that was the ubiquitous favourite.
But even as the price of the red rose reached an all-time high, sales this year was at an all-time low, says Murugan, who has been in the business for 20 years. “We usually keep about 300 wrapped cones of single roses ready on Valentine’s Day morning. But it is almost evening and we have just sold a little over 100,” he explains.
The pricing of flowers in the Bangalore market compounded by an extended winter has hit the local vendors in small towns like Puducherry hard, says Valarmathi, another flower seller. Pointing to bowl of discarded roses, she continues, “I found more flowers than usual blackened by frost this year,” she explains.
The stretch on S.V. Patel Salai, along with a section opposite the cathedral at Mission Street are among the town’s most well-known areas for cut flowers. Most of the flower sellers here have been around for 15 to 20 years, making the quarter fragrant with bouquets, all year around. “We used to sell garlands and tied strings of flowers when we started out,” recalls Jothi. “We switched to roses and other flowers, as the demand grew.”