Garlands of fiery orange marigolds, bunches of purple lotuses, rows of deep red roses, baskets of bachelor’s button and flowers of other varieties fill the air with their distinctive fragrances. Dawn breaks into a bouquet of colours and hectic activity at the wholesale flower market in Anandapuram, about 25 kilometres from Visakhapatnam.
After a gap of two years, business is blooming at the wholesale flower market, one of the biggest in this region. Here, more than 5,000 families, directly or indirectly, make a living out of the market. The two years of the pandemic had halted the business, impacting the lives of people who depend on it. But this year, the peak season of Karthika Masam and Margarisa Masam have brought the smiles back on their faces. “In these months, we see sales of almost ₹One lakh a day. This year we are back to pre-pandemic figures ,” says Yerra Srinu, a wholesale flower vendor.
Srinu, who has been in the business for the past 20 years, comes to the market every day by 2am and stays there till noon when the market closes. He says the flowers arrive in trucks from places like Kurnool, Rajahmundry and Bengaluru daily in the wee hours of the day.
Every day by 3am, vehicles loaded with flowers start trundling in from different parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Vendors get busy with unloading the baskets and bags of flowers. In a couple of minutes, the silence of dawn dissipates into a cacophony of voices and horns of vehicles. It is time for another day of business and there is not a minute of spare for the flower sellers. Hours before the first rays of light brighten the skies, the stalls are already up and running with baskets full of flowers arranged in front of the shops.
Buyers, mostly from Visakhapatnam city and neighbouring areas, walk in to select the freshest blooms among the dozens of stalls. Early birds throng the market, flitting about from one shop to another to grab their share before other shoppers arrive. To retain their flowers’ freshness, vendors sprinkle water on the blooms every now and then.
It is a task to navigate one’s way through the crowded lanes during the early hours. For here, no one has time to make way. High-pitched negotiations between sellers and buyers take place. “During Karthika Masam, we sold on an average 800 kilograms of flowers every day. On other days, it is about 400-500 kilograms,” says S Raju, another vendor.
Small-time flower sellers squat by the road under the fly-over of the Anandapuram junction, stringing flowers while engrossed in discussions and trying to catch the eye of a potential buyer.
“We have a small field nearby where we grow rose and kanakambaram (tropical flame). We get about ₹1,500 every day by selling these. This month business has been good for us,” says K Lakshmi, who sells locally grown flowers in small packets. She, however, rues that hybrid varieties of roses have taken over the market, leaving little scope for native flower growers. “It takes five to six months for the flowers to grow. This year, heavy rains in the region impacted the flower crop. We struggled for a month due to losses,” she adds. The saplings are brought from Rajahmundry which locals grow in their fields.
The market provides livelihood to many others such as garland makers who purchase flowers in bulk and create stunning works of art. Appaya Amma creates a number of garlands and strands within no time with a combination of flowers and leaves. “During the auspicious months, people prefer buying garlands. On a regular day, I make garlands from a few baskets of flowers. During Varalakshmi puja and Karthika Masam, we buy a few quintals. All the women and children at home sit together to string marigolds, chrysanthemums and tulsi leaves,” says Appaya Amma.