Thu, 12 Dec, 2019

A peek into Goa’s marigold market

There is an urgent need to support local Goan businesses during the festive season in the face of rising competition from non-Goans

08th October 2019, 02:17 Hrs


The festival of Navratri today reaches its pinnacle with the celebration of Dussehra. Also called Vijayadhashmi, the day marks the death of Ravan at the hands or Ram, and denotes the triumph of good over evil. A major feature of this festival is the pooja of arms, vehicles, and tools of one’s trade, which are decorated using marigold flowers.   

Marigold flowers are an important part of Dussehra celebrations, and they symbolise prosperity, energy, beauty and sacredness. Hence, there is rush of buyers and sellers everywhere this season for the precious marigold flowers. And as business moves to cater to cultural needs, certain issues in business are raising their head. One undercurrent in Goan business community is that businesses such as the traditional marigold flower sales are being increasingly taken over by non-Goans, and as such there is a demand for supporting local businesses this Dussehra. Goa has a long and rich tradition of celebrating the festival, but marigold flowers are not cultivated in the state on a large scale due to several factors. TG Life spoke to a number of marigold flower vendors and others associated with local business communities to understand the issues.   

“Marigold business in Goa is indeed in a delicate state now. Lots of outsiders have entered this business,” says Chitra Kundaikar, a florist from Panaji. “The non-Goans source their flowers from fields outside the state, and sell them in Goa at a price that it 2-3 rupees cheaper than the Goan vendors. Hence, the customers for local sellers are dwindling.” She further notes that in Goa, marigold is not grown on a large scale like it is in the neighbouring states. Sellers from outside Goa can afford to offer their product at a cheaper price despite costs of transport because they get it from big wholesale markets from their villages, Chitra states.   

While there are no transport costs for Goans, they end up outsourcing the stitching of garlands to labourers who charge around Rs 1000 to 1500 for a day. A goan vendor will then sell the marigold garlands at around Rs 60 a piece. In case of a non-Goan, community support might ensure cheap labour, people associated with this business estimated.   

Kamala, a marigold vendor at Panaji bus stand highlighted that there is an issue of space when it comes to cultivating marigold flowers in Goa. “Outside, they have huge fields where they cultivate marigold flowers, but here in Goa, we have families planting some marigolds in the backyard, which they then sell only during festivals. We cannot compete with the volume of trade the outsiders have,” said the vendor.   

Shweta Chari, founder of Tarang, an organisation that works to promote local Goan women entrepreneurs also concedes that there are issues, but is optimistic that the picture is slowly changing. “When it comes to setting up and running the business, Goans tend to go through government schemes whereas outsiders tend to rely more on support from their kin and community. Goans do not get that kind of community support,” she states. “At Tarang, we make an effort to promote local women’s entrepreneurial talent and from groups that can offer such support,” says Chari. The organisation also organises exhibitions where local women set up their stalls and sell their products.   

Customers, who are perhaps the most important stakeholders in the issue, had a different opinion. While many supported the idea that local businesses need strong backing, they were rather inclined to buy the cheaper product from non-Goan vendors. Some customers stated that Goan vendors price their goods higher because they seek to make maximum money during the festive season and avoid working for other days, whereas non-Goans continue their business year-round, so they can afford to sell at cheaper prices.  While the debate over giving preference to local businesses is still on, it cannot be denied that locals now need to innovate and change in the face of competition.

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