With Khmer New Year under way, fruit vendors in Phnom Penh are reporting customers paring down their shopping lists and driving hard bargains for the produce traditionally presented as offerings.
Selling mangos, grapes and longans in Phsar O’Russei, Khim Sokphein said he halved his order of fruit this year thanks to tumbling demand and lower profits. Like many fruit vendors, he expected sales to hold steady since produce is often purchased as an offering for the devada, the New Year’s deity.
“Last year I bought more than 20 cases of fruit for Khmer New Year, but this year I bought about 10 cases since the situation is very quiet,” he said Tuesday. “I still have about three cases to sell.”
Besides dropping his orders, the 35-year-old vendor said bargain hunters have compelled him to lower prices. Instead of the usual charge of 12,000 riel per kilogram of grapes, Mr Khim Sokphein said the fruit now fetches only about 7,000 or 8,000 riel. Still, he would rather sell at a reduced price than watch his inventory rot away.
With five excess cases still waiting to be sold, 40-year-old Srey Roth will likely cut her celebrations with her family short this year in order to keep her business afloat.
“I have to try to sell the rest, otherwise my energy spent will be useless and I will lose another 600,000 riel this time,” she said from her stand at Phsar Thmei. “I am happy if I can break even.”
But not all have felt the sting of tough economic times. Khim Sothy, 32, said her stand in Phsar Thmei is competing just fine. “The new devada has helped me with my business,” she said. “Many people complain about their excess fruit, but I am lucky; I have only about 30 percent left of my fruit,” she said smiling. “Thank you new devada.”