Ava Market sees 'paradigm shift' in stocks amid crisis
Source: Chronicle News Service / R Lester Makang

Ukhrul, September 20 2023: Is it a corollary of the short supply of imported goods or the rising demand for fresh local produce which is generally believed to be organic? Or is it maybe both? In the midst of the on-going communal crisis in the state, the Ava Market, the women's market, in Ukhrul town has experienced a major transformation as its stocks have largely shifted from imported items to locally produced vegetables, herbs and fruits.

With around 140 stalls, the market complex located at Phungreitang Bazaar is turning into a bustling trading centre for local produce.

Women are the only traders in the market and are the driving force be hind its success.

The ground floor which houses a mix of 110 veggies and some tea stalls is well-known for its fresh produce which mainly consists of local vegetables, herbs and wild edible items.

Local vegetable vendors told a team of media persons who visited the market on Tuesday, the produce is of good quality and many of these items are naturally produced without any chemical fertilisers.

Rows of colourful stalls of local veggies, herbs, wild edible items and even dried fish from remote villages greeted perambulation across the vegetable stalls on the market's ground floor.

Barring some items like Thangching, tomatoes and Ngari (fermented fish) that were brought in from outside, most of the items that now adorn the stalls are of local origin.

The local vegetables include staple food ingredients such as potatoes, cucumbers, gourds, chayote, small tomatoes, corns, king chilli, chilli powder, cabbages, pumpkins, beans and others.

Many herbs such as mint, coriander, and fruits like mangoes, kiwis and banana are available for sale too.

And also available are the wild edibles such as wild mushrooms, spinach, Hao Machi (indigenous salt) and bamboo shoots which are popular for both their taste as well as medicinal properties.

On the other hand, the first floor of the market which was once left with no takers has become fully-occupied with more than 30 stalls selling second-hand clothes of various items.

Prior to the outbreak of communal violence on May 3, according to vegetable vendors at the market, imported items used to flood the stalls and many sellers here depended on vegetables and fruits imported or supplied from Imphal and Dimapur.

"But, after the outbreak of the violence, supply of most goods from the outside had stopped.

Gradually, there has been a shift in this traditional market.

Most of the sellers here now focus more on local vegetables, herbs and wild edibles", Z Sanamla, a vegetable vendor, told The People's Chronicle.

She added that this could be due to the fact that the route is no longer viable for suppliers from Imphal due to the on-going unrest.

"But at the same time, demand for local agricultural produce is also growing," she explained, adding that local farmers from remote villages now bring these items daily to the market, cashing in on the growing demand for them.

According to Sanamla, her wares comprise only local items including cucumber, gourd, beans, green chilli, chilli powder, Hao Khamen, sebot (sponge gourd), etc., which are supplied from remote villages like Kharasom, Phungcham and others.

The ability of the local farmers to supply vegetables to the vendors in a timely and regular manner gives them leverage in filling the gap in demand, signifying the rise of progressive farmers in the district.

"The market has developed some sort of a local network between some local farmers and the sellers that ensure timely supply of the items," said Soso Zimik, chairperson of Zaoranao Shinshim Association (ZSA), a welfare body of the women sellers that runs the market under the Autonomous District Council (ADC), Ukhrul.

"Regular supply of local goods has further strengthened the network that connects the market to remote villages where, we believe, there is a steady rise in progressive farming, " Zimik said, while observing this enabled the sellers to stock local items throughout the week.

However, there's one challenge with the local farming largely seasonal.

"Most local vegetables and fruits tend to go out of stock during off-season.

Which is one reason why sellers here depend on imported vegetables like tomatoes, and carrots and also imported fruits such as apples, grapes, mangoes and others," she admitted.

Some dealers from Dimapur continued to supply these fruits and some vegetable items occasionally.

Zimik, who runs a second-hand clothes shop, informed that the sellers at the market are trying their best to sell the clothes at a competitive price.

"It's possible because we don't shell out a huge rent like other shops in the town's market do.

We pay only a minimum monthly fee of Rs 150 to the ADC," she added.

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