The best place to learn the abc of trade is in the streets under the sun and rain, particularly in Port-Louis. It becomes still more difficult when the police chase you and at times when you are caught and goods forfeited – “Sap dan karay, tom dan dife”. Consequently, you cannot find the money to pay your supplier.
Freshly-cut vegetables like “margoze and brede songe” are offered at bus stops to ladies returning from office who have the money to pay but not the time to peel the jackfruit. The 70-year old woman travelling from the countryside to Port-Louis is able to clear her stock at competitive prices because she has not even paid the transport cost of her “tant legim” to the bus conductor. Other supplies are as follows : cancelled orders, surplus production and even those stocks with slight defects are all offered below cost price. What to do with the stocks of those factories that have closed down and food products that are nearing expiry dates which have to be sold fast ? It is also a dumping and clearing market of all sorts of imported or local fruits and vegetables that cannot be stocked any further in the cold rooms because of the short shelf life. This year, we are expecting a huge crop of lychees, mangoes, watermelon and pineapple that will flood the market. During November and December 2012, we can expect a surplus production of more than 2000 tons, all inclusive.
There is nothing wrong to sell on the streets in any town or fresh lychees at Arsenal. This is a common practice even in Réunion Island and worldwide. For instance, Bombay streets are more crowded than Farquar and business is carried as usual. It is always a question of price, accessibility and freshness.
Some people complain that the streets are too congested but simply they have to walk along a clear parallel road. It is estimated that 100 000 people go in and out everyday in the city. Can anyone tell us that one has not been able to get in the city even for once ? When the political parties are busy with the first May gatherings, roads are congested and even some are officially closed but nobody complains. When the country is during an electoral campaign period, it appears that police stops chasing. Street vendors are often active political agents of all parties and lobby successfully. Every year November and December are the officially authorised period to trade on the streets. But what to do with the remaining stocks as from January onwards ?
The Port-Louis Vegetable Retail Market
Some 20 years ago, the Port Louis Vegetable Retail Market was the most flourishing and busy market. Recently new markets have emerged like those in Ste-Croix, Cité-Martial, and retail selling at the auction sales at Port-Louis particularly on Saturdays. Today, more and more people buy at the supermarkets. Another strong reason why above has become a slow moving market is lack of parking neither for members of market traders nor for customers. Retail sales for the Port Louis Vegetable Retail Market has gone down considerably. But of course they suffer as their operation cost is more than that of street vendors. The solution is simple : 1. offer the stalls free of charge 2. waive any amount that they owe to the municipality of Port-Louis.
3. Withdraw any court case and place everyone on the same footing and amend the regulation of 500-metre selling distance from Bazar Central.
Money can be available from the Consolidated Funds of the Prime Minister’s Office where several millions are lying idle from the loto and other bettings. The authority must apply the policy of “live and let live” as trade and jobs will be more difficult in the coming years. It is better they trade in the sales of goods than drugs. Because everyone has to feed their stomach and this might be achieved at the end of the day by hook or by crook…
From the very same street, vendors will emerge one day into international traders operating in big shopping malls. Today, some of them are flying to China and other parts of the world to source their products… Business grows with time, the successful street vendors will not stay on the streets all the time. Just like a famous mauritian family who sold sarees from house to house in the fifties and is today very successful. So let us give everyone the same chance and stop chasing as police has far more important problems to tackle. Prime minister, please consider the above proposals.