Chennai: We have heard most teachers likening a noisy classroom to a fish market, as a comparison to the hustle bustle common to both. But, in the absence of its trademark noise and crowd, the fish markets in the city wore a deserted look a couple of days after the Tamil month of Purattasi began on Monday. The month is dedicated to Lord Perumal (Vishnu), and most devotees give up eating meat, chicken and fish during this time. Consequently, the prices of these products are expected to come down as the demand decreases.
This year, the prices of fish have taken a beating, say traders and fishermen. Secretary of the Chennai Fishing Boat Fishermen Welfare Association, Kadiravan, says that every year the prices are affected during this month, but this year it has been the worst. “The prices have come down by half (see box). As the diesel price has also increased, we are in a daze,” he says.
Rani, who sells fish in the Kosapet market, says, “The fishermen just want to get rid of the fish and hence give it to us at low prices. Yet, we barely make a margin during this month. But we have to make a living out of this, so I come here every day to to get at least a few customers.”
Chicken prices would go down marginally, said Dr Eashwar, secretary of the Chennai Poultry Wholesalers Association. “There are only about 10 major producers of poultry in Tamil Nadu, and they are aware that the demand will decrease this month. Based on this, they streamline the production, reducing it for one week. This brings down the prices by about 30 to 35%,” he says, adding that if production costs increased, the prices would remain the same.
However, the prices of mutton will not come down though, as the suppliers themselves would decrease the supply immediately to avoid any loss, said M Anwar Basha Qurashi, general secretary of the Chennai Mutton Merchant (Retailers) Association. Explaining how it works, he said, “Our suppliers are from Rajasthan, Kolkata and Hyderabad. If they usually send three loads, they cut down one this season. They will hold back the animals and send them when the month is over.”
Meat lovers who give up their favourite foods for an entire month are a dejected lot. As engineering student Raman S says, “It is difficult, but I have no other option. We don’t cook meat at home and I will feel guilty if I eat non vegetarian food outside. I am used to the habit now and after all I can eat meat during the other months.”
On hearing of the fall in chicken and fish prices, homemaker Malathi quips, “If the prices are like this during the entire year, it will be very convenient for us.”