Getting fruits and veggies during the COVID-19 lockdown: local vendors and stores save the day for consumers across India
- • Only 23% consumers able to find fruits & vegetables on ecommerce apps
- • 64% consumers able to find fruits & vegetables via local vendors and retail stores
- • Logistics and inter state movement restrictions negatively impacting supply situation
April 10, 2020, New Delhi: The 21-day lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19 has negatively impacted the supply situation of fruits and vegetables. The availability which took a significant hit between March 23-26 is now starting to finally show improvement this week.
In the first week, thousands of trucks carrying essential commodities like fruits, vegetables, rice, wheat, pulses, etc., got stuck on the roads as they hadn’t received permits from local authorities, like a curfew pass. The Government had earlier exempted sellers of essential supplies including their entire logistics and supply chain from the lockdown so that the supply could be maintained. Many transporters have also said that once they deliver goods, they are not allowed to cross the state borders with empty vehicles.
To better understand the situation, LocalCircles in collaboration with Department of Consumer Affairs conducted extensive polls at national and state levels and get insights into availability levels of fruits and vegetables in the local markets/stores as well as via ecommerce channels. The survey received approximately 95,000 responses from consumers located in over 244 districts of India.
Availability of Fruits and Vegetables via eCommerce app during COVID-19 Outbreak: Only 23% consumers were able to find fruits and vegetables via eCommerce apps
The first question at a national level, asked consumers if they tried to purchase fruits and vegetables via an eCommerce app in the last 48 hours and what was their experience. 18% said they were able to get most fruits and vegetables while 9% said they were able to get only some fruits and vegetables as eCommerce apps were stocked out for others. 12% said they were not able to get most of the fruits and vegetables and 56% said they were not able to get anything. Only 5% said they were able to get everything easily.
Many consumers have reported on LocalCircles that the ecommerce apps were just unable to supply fruits and vegetables during the lockdown period. Some consumers reported that if they were able to add fruits and veggies in their shopping basket, the ecommerce app cancelled these items at the last minute thereby not delivering fruits and veggies. Consumers also highlighted having a very difficult time in getting a slot from the platforms. A few consumers have reported a positive change in the situation in the last 48 hours where their fruits and vegetables have started getting delivered by the ecommerce apps. Lead times however continue to be between 3-6 days for most platforms.
Availability of Fruits and Vegetables in Retail Stores during COVID-19 Outbreak: 64% consumers were able to find most fruits and vegetables in their local retail stores
When it came to retail stores and local vendors, only 17% said they were able to get everything easily. 47% said they were able to get most fruits and vegetables while 17% said they were able to get only some fruits and vegetables as local retail stores were stocked out for others. 13% said they were not able to get most of the fruits and vegetables and 6% said they were not able to get anything.
The local vendors and retail stores have performed significantly better than the ecommerce platforms when it comes to delivery of fruits and vegetables. These vendors in many parts of urban India took orders over phone and delivered the items within a one hour window.
The ecommerce fruits and vegetables supply chain got massively impacted due to the restricted movement of the delivery staff and inability of trucks carrying supplies to cross state border. There are also reports that many transporters are charging up to 3 times higher than the usual price. The issues around lack of work force availability due to migration, lack of clarity with local administrations on curfew passes also weighed in on the delivery by ecommerce platforms. The local vendor and store however, because of proximity was easily able to deliver within a couple of kilometres.
LocalCircles also conducted this fruits and vegetables availability survey in 11 states to check the availability situation and the trends were almost similar to that at the national level. When it came to ecommerce apps, the percentage of consumers who said they were unable to find fruits & vegetables stood at 70% in Uttar Pradesh, 68% in Maharashtra, 82% in Karnataka, 78% in Delhi, 76% in Tamil Nadu, 72% in Telangana, 55% in Gujarat, and 87% in West Bengal, while it stood at 100% in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab.
Percentage of Consumers able to find fruits and vegetables via eCommerce apps show a drastic dip in different states
Availability of fruits and vegetables at the state level also fared better at the local retail store and markets. The percentage of consumers who were able to find fruits & vegetables in local shops stood at 73% in Uttar Pradesh, 64% in Maharashtra, 59% in Karnataka, 67% in Delhi, 48% in Tamil Nadu, 48% in Telangana, 92% in Gujarat, 78% in Madhya Pradesh, 50% in Rajasthan, 33% in Punjab and 55% in West Bengal.
Percentage of Consumers able to find fruits and vegetables at local retail stores at different states shows positive signs
In a notification issued by the Ministry of Agricultural and Farmers' Welfare a week ago, all activities relating to mandis, farming activities, manufacturing and packaging units and movement of harvested commodities were exempted from the lockdown. Similarly, with the notifications issued by Ministry of Home Affairs and subsequently by local administrations, the movement of fruits and vegetables has become less restrictive and the improvement will soon be visible across both offline and online channels.
As the Central and State Governments get ready to decide on the extension of the COVID-19 lockdown, one thing that must be ensured by both is the unrestricted flow of fruits and vegetables across India so they reach every corner of India like they do generally. Amongst all of this, one thing that’s happened for sure is that now there is a new connection between the consumer and the local neighborhood vendor/store and when things do normalise, this connection will stay alive, despite the convenience of ecommerce.