Markets on the move in Myanmar
Phoe Wa The Myanmar Times Fri, May 1, 2020
Middle-aged ladies buying groceries at the new ravelling market in South Oakkalapa.
SOUTH OAKKALAPA TOWNSHIP – For a post-Thingyan morning in South Oakkalapa, as the residents were all under semi-lockdown, the streets were strangely quiet.
But from afar a fresh voice could be heard through a loudspeaker, which was captivating given it wasn’t announcing dhamma readings or health warnings about COVID-19.
“Vegetables and meats are coming to your doors. Come and buy it, but keep your distance from each other,” was the message.
As soon as the announcement had finished, a white pickup truck entered down the main street of ward number 10 in South Oakkalapa. The words “Food Distribution Car” are painted in red, on the side of the vehicle.
The cars were overflowing with meat, fish, condiments and vegetables, and drove slowly along the streets as people from each house slowly approached with their orders. All of the windows along the street were open, with curious housewives peering out to see what all the fuss was about.
By the time the cars reached the end of the street, most of the houses had managed to buy their groceries for the day.
Before the car managed to turn the corner Daw Than Than Sint, a 62-year-old woman, quickly realised what all the commotion was about. She took the opportunity to leave the house, and shouted out to the car before it could reach the next street.
Though she used to go shopping every day before the lockdown, she hadn’t managed to leave the house at all over the past week. She had gotten used to ordering food over the phone, and having it delivered. She was not happy with the quality of the food from the delivery service, or the price she had to pay.
So, she ran out happily after realising the food and vegetable car had arrived on her street.
“I like to buy the fresh vegetables by myself. But, I’m afraid of virus, so had been ordering food rather that going outside. Now I don’t have to worry so much,” Daw Than Than Sint said.
There are many other residents like Daw Than Than Sint in the street, particularly older ladies who prefer to stay inside at this time, said U Kyaw Zay Yar Win, head of South Okkalapa Township Development Committee.
South Okkalapa Township has seven large markets and three vendor markets. All the markets usually open every morning until midday and, until the lockdown measures were announced were always full of people.
Though people still visit the markets, the numbers of vendors and customers has decreased, The food and vegetable delivery service is aimed at reducing the spread of the virus by encouraging people to stay inside, he added.
“We believe it will work,” U Kyaw Zar Yar Win said.
The program was initiated by the South Oakkalapa Township Development Committee in collaboration with the We Love South Okkalapa Charity Organisation, as well as the local sellers.
The drivers arrange to pick up the food from the sellers in each ward each morning, before the cars set off on a journey around the township.
“The sellers give their guarantees for cheaper prices than the markets. We only want to help our people in the township, so they don’t have to pay extra just because they are under lockdown,” U Kyaw Zay Yar Win said.
As part of the deal, the sellers must also ensure that the meat is fresh and clean – meaning that they don’t wash on the streets, like many stall owners at the markets do.
“The prices are reasonable, and the food is always fresh but not always perfect. We don’t mind though, because it’s just started,” Daw Thuzar Myint, a 66-year-old-customer, said. She has already ordered a week’s worth of groceries, to be delivered every second day.
Most of the customers are women like Daw Thuzar Myint. Many middle-aged women seldom go out to the markets, so they were delighted when the food delivery car arrived in their township – so much so that they forgot to social distance on the first few days. But the driver, mindful of his purpose, reminded them of the two-meter distancing rule when approaching.
The volunteers of the We Love South Okkalapa organisation also assisted during the project’s first week, helping to customers to line up at a distance.
“As you know, some women can be quite stubborn when they get old – but we can handle it. They learn quickly when we tell them what to do,” Ko Myo from the We Love South Okkapala Organisation said.
The food distribution team hopes to sell food across two wards, covering some 100 families. In practice, the food already sold out during the first few days in South Oakkalaba’s ward 10. The sellers have now started to make phone calls to homes before leaving, just to make sure they receive their orders.
U Tin Win yells out to the customer, “Wait for a minute, the pork is coming,”. He packs the pork in his car, and drives to the customer’s door.
“The pork is sold out in a few minutes. It’s hard to believe it,” U Tin Win said.
The sellers don’t need to pay any fees to the Township Develop Committee for selling to the delivery drivers. Other meat sellers have made agreements with the Committee, U Kyaw Zay Yar Win said.
The customers are happy with the plan, and find the prices reasonable.
“It may become a new way of going to the market, or letting the market come to the people at home,” U Kyaw Zay Yar Win said.
From: THE MYANMAR TIMES, MYANMAR Fri, May 1, 2020