Fruit sellers’ tale of woe | Daily News

Fruit sellers’ tale of woe

Even fruit sellers have not being spared by the economic crisis. Pictures by Sudath Malaweera
Even fruit sellers have not being spared by the economic crisis. Pictures by Sudath Malaweera

The way the economic crisis has destabilized the country is unprecedented. Various politicians have proposed different solutions but the people continue to suffer. Their problems have not been solved. The queues at petrol stations are so long, you can see the desperation on the faces of the people. Yet what hurts the most is when they are unable to feed their families. The queues at gas sales outlets too are long, and the competition for gas has even led to violence.

The inability to feed their families is what a father and mother cannot bear. Fruits are also an important part of a healthy diet. Take away someone’s health and that is also something they cannot bear.

We know that diets high in fruit are associated with all sorts of health benefits, including a decreased risk of many diseases. Today the prices of fruits in Sri Lanka are so expensive that both the fruit seller and the buyer are frustrated. It has become intolerable. The Daily News spoke to some fruit sellers in Fort who shared their candid views with us.

Prasad, was the first fruit vendor who spoke to us. Though he had a smile on his face, the look of defeat on his face was hard to ignore.

“An Apple is in the price range of Rs. 120 – Rs. 180. One box of apples is Rs. 30,000. Actually these days, all fruits have gone up in price. Business is really bad because people are not buying fruits. It is almost nadir. My life is now full of sorrow. That is all I can say. Life has now become a constant struggle to survive. It is not just for me, but also for the people I come into contact with, who are part of my business.

We are all struggling. Saying that it is hard is an understatement. This is because I have to send my children to school and I have to provide for my family. I am married with two children. So now I have to seriously consider doing another job.”

Dilshan was another young fruit seller, who agreed to talk to us, yet he, like Prasad, had an expression on his face that said that he too was frustrated.

“An orange is now around Rs. 120 and an apple is around Rs. 150 or Rs. 160. Do you really think someone will spend Rs. 150 on an Apple when a loaf of bread is Rs. 180? It is really ridiculous. In the past, people bought apples and oranges for pleasure. Now how can they do that? Life is bliss is it not (he said sarcastically)! There is no business at all!”

Sudath too has very little control over what is happening to him. His voice was heavy with emotion as he spoke to us.

“Because of taxes, prices have gone up. It has come to a point where selling these fruits has become quite a challenge. I must say that sales are at an all- time low. Because of this situation sales are so erratic. One day you have business and then the next two days there is not much business. This business is my only source of income and I am making every attempt to keep my business afloat. I work when it is sweltering and I work in the rain.”

Ariyapala was angry at the unfairness of it all. There is so little that he or other fruit vendors can do in these times.

“Business is at rock bottom. My voice is hoarse, shouting all day trying to sell fruits! Seriously tell me, who will buy at these prices? I have been here since morning trying to earn some money. It is such a hard life. How are we going to eat at this rate? We are now beggars! Who is going to take care of us? Who is there for us? We are desperate and we are helpless. There are hundreds like us who are suffering. This is so unfair! I blame the government. This is their fault.”

Theeban was the last vendor we spoke to. He too admitted that one aspect of the problem is that though prices rise, our income does not.

“If people have money then we have business. I come to work in the morning and then I leave in the evening. We used to sell an Apple for Rs. 60, and now it is Rs. 150. We have many people working under us. They too need this job. There was a time when business was really picking up. Now business has really suffered. How are we going to pay the bills?”

We cannot turn a blind eye to their plight. They too are human beings. We are one Sri Lankan family. When a member of the community needs our assistance, it is our duty to provide that assistance. This is the time to unite as one people. Are we going to turn a deaf ear? or are we going to really listen to what they are saying, when they say they are suffering? If we see, listen and act with love, then there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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