Kolkata’s bakeries and sweetshops have not only managed to overcome the acute dry fruit shortage precipitated by the Afghan political crisis but have also managed to do roaring business during Diwali. In the process, some of them tapped Indian sources and procured local produce. And no one has anything to complain about.
‘Business is great’Rajkumar Agarwal from Bikharam Chandmal said business was remarkably high this year. “There is no denying that we had a great season this year and if there’s no third wave, the market will get even better,” he said. Sudip Mullick of Balaram Mullick and Radharaman Mullick agreed and said they registered around 40% higher sales during Durga Puja and Diwali compared to 2020. “This is a great start to the festive season and we’re hopeful that the trend remains the same in future,” he said. A source at Dunkel Braun also told us that they registered a 30% increase in sales compared to recent years.The political crisis in Afghanistan, the primary source of dry fruits for Indian vendors, had created fears about an acute shortage during the festive season. It also prompted city’s sweetshops and bakeries to look for alternative sources of produce like pistachios, cashews, almonds and dates, which are important ingredients in a large variety of confectioneries and sweets. Dunkel Braun, for instance, sourced mostly Indian varieties of dry fruits. “In fact, we are really happy with the quality of the Indian varieties. We didn’t have to compromise with the quality and yet received all the products,” said Sandeep Gupta from the brand, adding that the supply from Afghanistan has resumed though things are not smooth yet.
Sudip Mullick told us that they procured African and US varieties of dry fruits. “They are cheaper and yet have almost the same quality as the Afghanistan varieties. So, things are good,” he said.
Price hike a pain
A major downside of the crisis has been the resultant price rise. Since then, dry fruit prices in city markets have shot up by 25% to 35%. This hit bakeries and sweetshops hard. They couldn’t increase prices of their items to retain customers, but losses were piling up. The prices are still high but the massive increase in sales has covered some of the losses.
Lovey Kapur from Kookie Jar said they have not increased the prices of their products because they are looking at long-term business. “Looking at the Puja and Diwali sales, it would be safe to say that the market sentiment is turning positive and in this situation we don’t want to hike prices and push customers away,” she said.
Ready for the Christmas season
So, if the situation stays positive and the third COVID-19 wave doesn’t hit, the sweetshops and bakers said business could soon reach pre-pandemic levels. “The incessant rains also created problems for us, as it kept customers away. The rains continued till October and because of that, all retail shops suffered. The Kali Puja and Diwali week was probably one of those weeks when it didn’t rain even for a day and that boosted business ever more,” Sudip said, adding that after overcoming all the hurdles, they are now confident about the Christmas and New Year seasons.
CustomerSpeak: ‘The sweets are still affordable’
Sweets are an inseparable part of Diwali celebrations. Though many people nowadays go for chocolates and other replacements, I believe in exchanging traditional sweets. I did the same this Diwali. Thankfully, the price increase of dry fruit sweets has been nominal. We usually gift hundreds of sweet boxes to our clients, so a significant price hike would have burnt holes in our pockets
— Asish Agarwal, a Bowbazar-based businessman
Source: Times of India