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#FarmersStrike: Restaurants helpless & patrons unhappy


As the farmers’ strike continued on the seventh day on Wednesday, several vegetarian restaurants in the city are bearing the brunt of the shortage of vegetables. Popular thali joints, that serve seven to eight different vegetables, have either been forced to rely on pulses and lentils or cut down on the portion sizes due to less supply. Many owners fear that change in prices will become inevitable if the strike continues. Pune Times speaks to restaurateurs to find out how much will your thali be affected by this strike.

Strike continues on Day 7
While in Madhya Pradesh the farmers’ strike turned violent on Tuesday, with curfew being set up in certain areas, in Maharashtra the strike has been relatively less violent. On Day 7, it was reported that agitators were protesting in front of the houses of MLAs and MPs. The situation seems to be returning to normal in Pune. It was reported that the supply situation had improved in some of the Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) on Tuesday, which recorded an 80 per cent arrival of stock. It has sparked hopes that the situation will be back to normal soon.

Pulses become a staple substitute
Many thali joints are simply adding more pulses to their menu, to substitute vegetables they can’t afford. Arun Kini, owner Asha Dining Hall on Apte Road, says that the buffer stock helped them survive for the initial days of the strike. “Once the buffer stock was over, we had to buy vegetables at a higher rate. As of now, we are trudging along with losses on our profit margin. We hope that the situation gets better in a couple of days, because if it worsens, then we are left with no option than to serve pulses to our regular customers.”
At Mamta Dining Hall, in Kothrud, they have already begun serving more pulses and lentils. Navin Chaudhari, the owner reveals, “At times, we also have to serve various types of pithala to customers; it’s made from gram flour which is easily available in the market. Our regular customers are not happy but what can we do now,” asks Navin.
However, Sampada Bhave of Krushna Dining Hall on Law College Road says that despite vegetable
supply issues they are trying to neither increase the prices nor compromise on the quality and quantity of the food. Bhave informs, “Apart from three different vegetables in our thali, we also serve salads and raita made up of vegetables, so this is a testing time for us.” Bhave adds that they are looking at alternate sources of produce suppliers, “Apart from Market Yard, we are also exploring options of buying it from farmers who come to sell their vegetables directly at farmers’ markets. But these farmers usually don’t have produce in bulk quantity, which is again an issue.
Otherwise, we are also keeping a close track on the market for the flow of the supply.”

Suppliers caught in the eye of the storm
Some of the suppliers informed us that the demand for exotic vegetables has gone up slightly, but their prices remain the same. “We will change the prices only if our production costs go up. Our supply to Mumbai has been hampered because of the protest by the farmers, so in a way, we are bearing the loss right now,” said one of the suppliers, on the condition of anonymity.

Fine dine restaurants suffer losses
Karan Poorwal of Classe restaurant in Kalyani Nagar says that the strike does not affect the business directly. “Vendors are charging 15 to 20 per cent extra to deliver veggies on the strike days, so as of now the pricing of the dishes remains the same,” he says.
However, unlike Classe, many other fine dine restaurants in the city are currently in a fix. “We have been badly affected by the strike. There is a shortage of exotic veggies like zucchini and bell peppers,” informs Aishwarya Vishwanath of The Real Green Cafe in Koregaon Park. Aishwarya adds that they have approached various vendors who supply exotic vegetables but they are available at much higher rates. “None of these veggies can be substituted in our dishes. As of now, we haven’t changed the prices on our menus, because it would confuse our regular customers. Hence, till the strike continues we will bear all the losses,” she adds.
According to Nikhil Jangra of Sauteed Stories, Koregaon Park, if the strike continues the supply of veggies might go down by the next week. “We are planning on approaching private vendors or other suppliers to meet the demand. If there is an increase in the price by next week, then we may have the change the price on the menu too,” says Nikhil.

 Regular customers unhappy

People who depend on thali joints and restaurants for lunch are not happy with the state of affairs. “I come from a farmer’s family, so I completely understand their point. But is it necessary to throw away vegetables which you’ve taken an effort to grow, in order to protest? I think they should sell them at exorbitant prices so that it still leaves an impact,” says Santosh M, a student. Santosh also adds that he hopes the Maharashtra government intervenes and the supply of vegetables and milk is restored. “I prefer to have at least one sabji in each meal as I’m not really a fan of pulses. And being a vegetarian, I can’t think of resorting to eating eggs and fish like some of my hostel friends are. I hate to eat the same old usal at the restaurant regularly.”
Pravin Shetty, an IT engineer, too says that he’s bored of eating pulses. “You’ll get Punjabi dishes like rajma, dal makhni, or Maharashtrian matki usal regularly at the pure veg restaurants. But after a point, you get bored of eating the same thing. I prefer curd rice to get out of the monotony,” informs Pravin.

 Source:  Times of India


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