Compared to markets in many developing countries, Male’s fruit and vegetable market appears tranquil. Visitors aren’t hassled, and the pathways are fairly clean.
Nearly each stall presents banana bunches, coconuts young and mature, and bundles of various leaves alongside giant papayas and modest mangoes. A few sport coconut oils and juices for skin, hair and cooking, as well as containers of Maldivian spice mix and a salty fish sauce.
While the market is the shopkeeper’s source for local goods, the rules of competition are personal. “Business depends on your friends–both shopkeepers and customers,” said one vendor. Pointing out the homogeneity of goods available, he explained, “We compete by making sure we have what the other guy has. We don’t lower the price.”
While business is alright, the annual holiday season (October – December) brings a dismal combination–low supply and low demand. In spite of their personal connections, most vendors note that business hovers between “alright” and “bad.”
During the holidays many locals leave the country, and island-based suppliers make fewer trips to Male’. One man said the price of a coconut, one of the Maldives’ most common products, has dropped from Rf5 (US$0.30) to Rf2 (US$0.13). Bananas sell for Rf1 (US$0.06) apiece, versus the shop rate of Rf3 (US$0.9). He adds that most tourists who stop in don’t buy.
Seasonal market trends are a nuisance for vendors, but their complaints mostly lie with the changes imposed on the market system by the Male’ City Council, then Male’ Municipality.
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