They sit under Delhi’s jamun trees with fruit from Gujarat

June 25th, 2008 - 12:01 pm ICT by IANS  

By Vaaruni Eashwar
New Delhi, June 25 (IANS) They may be sitting under jamun trees but, contrary to popular belief, the sellers of the sweet, purple fruit source it from places as far away as Gujarat. “The fruit from these Delhi trees is too small,” Komalpal, a young vendor on Ashoka Road, told IANS. Jamun sellers like him say they buy the fruit from the Azadpur mandi, a wholesale market, instead.

The fruit comes to Delhi from several parts of the country - Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Punjab, and places like Agra in Uttar Pradesh. There is a cyclical pattern to the trade, with the fruit coming from each region one after the other. A couple of sellers did, however, say they get some fruit from the trees in nearby parks.

Delhi’s jamun trees are of an old specie type, which are wonderful for shade and have abundant small and sweet fruit during monsoon. But in recent years, people have become used to eating the large hybrid variety, which is available for many more months in the year and so, the small variety is not picked and sold as much as before.

The jamun business is Indian to the core - a mix of opportunity, good business and tradition.

Every year, jamun sellers can be seen along certain roads of Lutyen’s Delhi. The vendors come from around Delhi and places like Aligargh in Uttar Pradesh, speaking their regional dialects of Hindi. Some have been coming for many years, some since their childhood. One seller, probably in her 50s, said she has been coming for over 20 years.

Sometimes whole families come to Delhi to sell jamuns - even if it means living like nomads in Delhi’s parks for six months. They arrive soon after Holi in March and stay till Rakshabandhan in August, after which they return to their hometowns or villages.

It has always been thought that these sellers climb the trees that line some of Delhi’s big roads and sell the jamun collected from there. Apparently, this is longer the case.

In earlier years, reports stated that ‘thekedaars’ or contractors had bought jamun trees in and around Ashoka Road and the jamun sellers bought the fruit from them. The sellers, however, say they usually buy from the mandi and not from the thekedaars.

Sometimes, when the fruit is not available at the mandi, they buy from these thekedaars who either come to the mandis or sell directly to the vendors. They buy the small fruit at about Rs.60-100 for five kilograms from the contractors, and sell it for about Rs.20-40 per kg. The contractors also auction the fruit, with the entire lot often being bought by a trader at the Azadpur mandi.

Recent reports suggested that the unseasonal rains in Delhi had lowered the price of the fruit. However, most sellers say there was no real difference in the price of jamun due to these rains as the fruit comes from outside.

Gita, another young jamun seller on Ashoka Road who is in her late teens, said they had reduced their selling price as the mandi had reduced it too.

Before the rains, when the fruit was coming mainly from Ahmedabad, prices were about Rs.70-80 per kg. The fruit now comes mainly from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh and is priced lower at Rs.50-70 per kg.

The sellers said that the price reduces progressively over the jamun season, with the prices at around Rs.150-200 per kg at the start of the season (around Holi) and Rs.30-40 per kg at the end. This is essentially based on the cyclical pattern of the fruit coming from different regions, with the prices lowered when the fruit comes from places closer to Delhi.

“The sales this year are less than last year,” said Gita.

Komalpal explained that the harvest as well as quality of jamun is very good every alternate year. Last year was the good or ‘tez’ year. This year is the not-so-good, or ‘piti’ year.

Prices this year, ranging from Rs.150-30 per kg, are therefore less than last year, which ranged from Rs.250-50 per kg. Another seller said this year’s jamuns are not as sweet.

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