On the eve of Diwali, wholesalers of firecrackers here have reported empty shelves in their stores. While every year around this time, retailers as well as individual customers from all over Telangana flock to these wholesale markets to purchase Diwali crackers.
After last year’s firecracker sale turned out to be a wet firecracker, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, unusual rainfall and flash floods in Hyderabad, traders here had placed their hopes of a recovery on this year’s sale. This year’s sale, however, did not pick up as expected, the sellers said. âIt was despite the public’s desire to celebrate the festival. However, the surge in prices considerably dampened enthusiasm, âthey added.
Multiple factors have led to the current situation, said Devendra Dalal, co-secretary of the Telangana Firecracker Association. The shelves of Devendra de Dalal branches in Begum Bazaar were partly empty. âDue to the second wave of Covid-19, firecracker manufacturing in Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu has been hit hard. Wholesalers here too were not sure whether to stock up for Diwali as a possible third wave of Covid-19 is looming on the horizon, âhe explained.
A combo pack of sparklers, flowerpots, spinning wheels, crackers, bombs and rockets that cost around Rs 850 last year is now priced at Rs 1,000. According to Dalal, the increase in cost of raw materials and labor shortage led to a price increase of 10-15%.
The store of one of the leading wholesalers of firecrackers, Shruti Agencies, in Feelkhana is not crowded, unlike every year. âThe situation is such that we do not have enough stock and that is why the number of customers is also lower. People leave disappointed that they couldn’t find what they were looking for, âsaid one of the people responsible for monitoring the sale.
Rakesh Sugandh of Shanti Fireworks, one of the largest wholesale firecracker suppliers located near Siddiamber Bazar, noted that there was much needed excitement among the public this year over Diwali. âAfter several boring months of the pandemic and after missing Diwali last year, people are flocking to buy crackers,â he said. Shanti Fireworks is one of the only fireworks wholesale stores in Hyderabad where you can see queues of customers all day long. A bundle of Laxmi bombs here is priced at Rs 200, compared to Rs 600 in other stores.
Echoing Dalal’s views, Sugandh said, âPart of the shortage of inventory is that traders thought they could handle the remaining inventory from last year. They did not stock up this time for fear of weak demand. Hemanth Kumar, the owner of SD Fireworks at Siddiamber Bazar, said he was disappointed that he had not received adequate supplies from Sivakasi. âThere is demand this year but look at our racks, they are empty long before Diwali. He too, like other traders, feared a third wave of Covid-19 and was not getting enough supplies. âWe suffered a loss last year. Manufacturers have increased the price by 30%. We also had to increase the prices on our part, âhe added.
Speaking of the supply shortage, one of the wholesalers blamed the uncertainty in recent months over whether to allow crackers to be sold.
Just days before Diwali on October 28, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) issued an order banning the production, sale and use of serial firecrackers and crackers or laris other than green crackers. The GHMC has formed teams to keep track of those who sell banned firecrackers to penalize them.
âThe problem is the lack of clarity. And then, the government wants to control everything even if it cannot decide anything in advance. It is difficult to do business with such restrictions. Although there are only stocks of green crackers, there is a lot of uncertainty, âsaid one trader.