Kolkata

Retail traders in Kolkata hit as supplies from China dwindle

Tiretta Bazar electronic goods market in central Kolkata.

Tiretta Bazar electronic goods market in central Kolkata.   | Photo Credit: Suvojit Bagchi

Business has dropped owing to price hike as fewer goods come in from neighbouring country after outbreak of COVID-19

 

Sitting at the entrance of Fancy Market, one of the earliest multi-storeyed retail markets of Kolkata selling household goods, Raza, a middle-aged gadget-seller, said: “Life is bad as business is [bad ].”

“The profit margin was already less as Chinese goods are not as cheap as they used to be, but now that we have to buy at a higher price it is a struggle to make any money. We can’t sell products at a higher rate than usual because the customers will not buy at all. The most we have increased is ₹1 on earphones but where is the profit in that?” said Mr. Raza.

Fancy Market, like most of the major retail outlets in the city selling household items, is stacked with goods from China. The traders – like Mr. Raza – get those goods booked mainly in China Eastern’s late-night flight from Kunming in southern China’s Yunnan province to Kolkata and sell those in Kolkata; Fancy is just one of many such selling hubs in the city that cater to entire east India. But his business dropped “substantially” for a 20-30% increase in the prices of all the products since the supply line from China was cut off to contain the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

“Even with a direct supply from China to Kolkata, the price of a speaker, our bestseller, has been increased from 230 to 310,” said another electronics shop owner from Fancy Market. He says the people who can afford to buy will buy it anyway but people who come here are usually looking for cheaper products so the hike in price is gradually affecting the overall sales.

“The price of an ordinary pixel light, which used to cost ₹190 is now between ₹255 and ₹260,” said S P Agarwal, who manages an electronic light shop in Chandni Chowk, in central Kolkata. Mr. Agarwal explains that because the import has stopped, the importers from Delhi and Mumbai have increased the price of the existing stock.

“These products are what we call hotcake items because they are always in demand, but products like light bulbs will face a slow increase of 10-15%, at least till the stocks don’t get over, we don’t know what will happen then”.

The alternative of buying local products does not seem to be working out either. “There are Indian products but they are not as cheap as the Chinese counterparts and the quality is not reliable”, Mr. Agarwal said indicating that the market is hugely dependent on Chinese products.

Gautam Roy, a retail lamp and lights store Umashree said 90% of goods of this market is procured from China. "But procurement stopped due to Coronavirus threat." As a result price of each good would go up by ₹15-20 for small items affecting sales.

Gautam Roy, a retail lamp and lights store Umashree said 90% of goods of this market is procured from China. "But procurement stopped due to Coronavirus threat." As a result price of each good would go up by ₹15-20 for small items affecting sales.   | Photo Credit: Suvojit Bagchi

 

In fact, a recent report by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) corroborates Mr. Agarwal’s views. The CII report noted that China supplies 43% of India’s imports of the top 20 goods, including mobile handsets ($7.2 billion import from China), computers ($3 billion), integrated circuits, and other inputs ($7.5 billion), fertilizers ($1.5 billion), APIs ($1.4 billion) and antibiotics ($1.1 billion).

Mukhtar Hussain, a roadside vendor in Chandni Chowk who sells only Chinese goods which he buys from Burrabazar and Bagri Market, now has to buy from local wholesalers who are selling the same products at a higher rate. He has another view.

“Only the low-level sellers are getting affected by this supply shutdown, the upper market which is the wholesalers, local or otherwise, is making up for the loss by increasing the price of the existing stock, they will not get affected.”

Realising that SARS-CoV-2 can have a long-term impact on the market, Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman met more than 200 business leaders earlier this week to assess the impact. At this point, neither Mr. Raza and Mr. Agarwal knows what will happen (to their business) once the existing stocks get over.

[The writer is an intern with The Hindu, Kolkata]

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 3:32:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/retail-traders-in-kolkata-hit-as-supplies-from-china-dwindle/article30929805.ece

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