Fruit importers, wholesalers and retailers have been pushed into a tight corner with continuous blockades and shutdowns, piling stocks and additional transport costs.
Sales have been slashed by 60 to 70 percent, say importers and wholesalers, while retailers are in no better a situation as they are counting a loss of 10 kilograms of rotten fruits per mound of fruits every day since the beginning of the political stalemate.
Most of the 120 covered vans that are expected at the Badamtali fruit market everyday with fruits from different land and sea ports could not move even an inch for the political blockades, said Sirajul Islam, general secretary of Bangladesh Fresh Fruit Importers' Association.The Badamtali market deals nearly 40 percent of the country's total fruit imports, Islam added.
Nearly 150 of the country's 300 fruit importers belong to the Badamtali market, the largest sales point in Bangladesh, from where wholesalers supply fruits to retailers at different districts, Islam said.
Fruits are imported from around 25 countries, including India, China, USA, Bhutan and Australia, he said.
There has been a drastic drop in sales for falling demand in the market, he said.
Mohammad Russel Hawlader, an importer and owner of Marium Enterprise at Badamtali, said his fruit-carrying vans were stuck on the roads for 3-5 days, and around 40 percent of the perishable items became rotten.
“I faced a loss of Tk 20 lakh in the last two months for the blockades,” Hawlader said. “The prime minister and opposition leader are fighting for their own benefit; they are not thinking about us.”
A lingering political climate will spell disaster for the sector as local businesses are failing to keep commitments they made to exporters, he said.
“I made commitments to some Bhutanese exporters three and a half months ago to import 3,000 trucks of oranges. Two months have already flown by and I could bring a mere 400 trucks so far.”
The season for Bhutanese oranges begins in November and continues till mid-February.
“Normally we spend Tk 20,000 to Tk 25,000 on a truck or covered-van from different land borders like Hili, Benapole, Sonamasjid and Burungamari, but van owners are now charging Tk 80,000 to Tk 90,000.”
“We have cut down on fruit imports, as it has become risky and unprofitable,” said Kuddus Mawla Shimul, manager of Al-Madina Fruits at Badamtali market.
He said miscreants set fire to one of their vans on a blockade day, making them incur a loss of Tk 25 lakh.
"We are facing a loss of Tk 1.5 lakh a month, as we regularly have to pay staff salaries and rent on warehouses.”
Mohammad Hassan Morol, a fruit seller at Dayaganj in Old Dhaka, said customer turnout has dropped to a half in the last two months.
“I sell fruits worth Tk 5,000 to Tk 6,000 a day now, which was nearly double three months ago. I bore a loss of Tk 10,000 last month for a lack of customers.”