In times of pandemic, Bengalureans’ date with dates

Mohammed Idrees Choudhury, the dry fruits merchant, showing the Ajwa dates.

Mohammed Idrees Choudhury, the dry fruits merchant, showing the Ajwa dates.

Over the last fortnight, hundreds of people have been vying for a date with Mohammed Idrees Choudhury, a well-known dry fruits merchant from Russell Market. Mr. Choudhury’s shop, Delicious, which was established in the 1920s, has always been a popular haunt, but this surge in patronage is unusual at a time when most people are avoiding crowded markets. The reason? He is offering huge discounts on three coveted and expensive varieties of dates — Ajwa, Sufri (Safri) and Kalmi — imported from Saudi Arabia.

These varieties usually retail anywhere between ₹750 and ₹1,400 a kilo, but Mr. Choudhury is selling them for ₹900 for 3 kg, which works out to ₹300 a kg. He claimed that his Saudi Arabian exporter, whom he has been trading with for over a decade, offered him, and another trader from Indonesia, huge discounts due to the bumper crop.

“I decided to share this discount with customers as we are in the middle of a pandemic,” said Mr. Choudhury. In the initial days, when word spread among his customers, the crowds were so huge that the police were roped in to enforce COVID-19 appropriate behaviour. “Given the way it is spreading in the city, I approached the police. We received special permission to sell the dates, but to keep crowds down, I have introduced a token system,” he said.

Kalmi dates usually sell for ₹750-800 per kg, while Sufri retails at ₹700 per kg. But the most sought-after variety is Ajwa, and prices can go up to ₹1,400 a kg. Black Ajwa dates not only have significance in Islamic traditions but are believed to be good for the heart. Others like Kalmi are rich in vitamins.

“People have been consuming more dates since the pandemic, but not everyone can afford Ajwa dates. I want people from all economic sections of society to benefit from this. By not cashing in on the heavy discount I was offered, I can render a bit of service to society,” he added.

Bangalore Dry Fruits, one of the city’s oldest stores in Chickpet, told The Hindu that the last best price for Ajwa was ₹1,100. Customers are thrilled with the windfall. “I am a regular customer and have been buying from Idrees for the last 10 years. But this special offer is the best so far, specially ahead of the Holy month of Ramzan,” said Syed Yakub, a businessman from Shivajinagar.

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 8:23:33 pm |