Small traders in mixed experience after the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic

Thursday March 26 2020

Fruit vendor Yasini Kifurago peels off an

Fruit vendor Yasini Kifurago peels off an orange for a customer at Tabata Relini in Dar es Salaam yesterday. PHOTO | SALIM SHAO 

By The Citizen Reporters @TheCitizenTZ news@tz.nationmedia.com

Dar es Salaam. Small businesses in Dar es Salaam have continued to remain resilient, despite an ongoing global and local economic challenges caused by the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

A survey by The Citizen in various parts of the city showed that some were beginning to feel the pinch, while others continue to prosper as consumers were buying bulk goods for stocking to caution themselves against future uncertainties, particularly a lockdown.

A number of small traders said the decrease of consumers was due to fear resulting from misinformation being circulated via social platforms, this is even as authorities continue to urge people to stick to the directives given by health experts.

Some of those who claim that their businesses have been shaken expressed their optimism that this would be a short-lasting situation and that things would normalise soon after Covid-19 is contained.

The survey also showed that most of traders continued to open their businesses.

Moreover, some traders said they were providing public education to their consumers on protective measures to avoid contracting the killer virus.

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The survey was conducted in small businesses ranging from small shops, food vending, bars, tailoring shops, vegetables stalls and butcheries.

Ms Celina Peter, a fruit and vegetable seller at Mbezi Louis, said although she was experiencing a shrink of sales, she had decided to reduce the quantity of the product to avoid further losses.

“I will continue to order products for my business even though in a reduced quantity as some buyers have stopped coming to me,” she told The Citizen.

“Generally, my sales has decreased to a gross income of Sh25,000 from around Sh45,000,” she added.

She believes that the pandemic will come to an end as the government was working to make sure that people were protected through reducing congestions and use of protective measures including hand washing and application of sanitizers.

“I don’t see the point of closing, the most important issue is how to protect ourselves from the virus,” she noted.

Mr Juma Ramadhani, a tailor at Mbezi Louis second hand clothes market said he continued to operate because the pandemic would not last long. “I’m targeting available customers. Moreover, there is no lockdown yet. I’m trying to use the most of this time. We don’t know how things will turn out tomorrow,” he said.

He added that Easter was around the corner, he expects more buyers towards the festive season, even has his hopes, he said, were not too high.

“Last year, around this time, I was getting many orders. This year, it appears that things could be different,” he said.

In Tabata Kisiwani, things continued to look normal and most businesses were open.

Operators of butcheries and pharmacies in the area said they were yet to feel the pinch of Covid-19. Sales were generally normal.

Ms Deborah Sah, a food vendor at Tabata Kisiwani said: “there’s only a slight drop in my sales. My capital remains intact. My profits have gone down a bit.”

According to her, normally she makes between Sh30,000 and Sh35,000 a day, but now she was only making between Sh20,000 and Sh25,000.

Given the situation, she said that she has only reduced the amount of food and bites she prepares for her customers.

Mr Florian Mushi, a shopkeeper at Tabata says he has noted that there were was a bit of a surge in his sales, as people were buying more food than previously.

“It appears, some of my customers are in a panic mode and have increased the quantities of the items they buy from me. Such items include rice, maize flour and beans. So, it’s a blessing in disguise for me,” he said.

“Even those who used to buy, say half a kilo or a kilo, they are now buying from five kilos upwards. Some even buy cartons of soft drinks,” he explained.

According to him, the purchasing behaviour has slightly changed over fears that there might be a lockdown as the case has been in other parts of the world, including Rwanda and South Africa.

For his part, an operator of a butchery located at Tabata, Mr Juma Salumu, said there has not been any increase in sales even as there was an air of panic due to coronavirus disease.

Ms Rehema Mzee, a fruit seller at Mbezi Mwisho, said before the pandemic she used to sell up to 200 avocados in two days which fetched her between Sh90,0000 and Sh100,000, but the volume has now gone down by half.

“Since Covid-19 was reported in the country, some customers have stopped buying. This has forced me to only try and sell 50 avocados, and these may take up to four days. It’s tough for me,” she noted.

Ms Shirima said right now she was running her business from the savings made during previous days just to keep her business premise active.

“Although I’m not making any profit, but I continue doing business to warm up the place, because closing it will also make customers to shift to other sellers,” she said.

A small shop owner, Mr Thomas Msigwa, a resident of Mbezi Mwisho said there was no decrease of trade volume in his daily sales, but the contrary, a slight increase due to bulk purchases by some customers.

“Currently, some items are out of stock in my shop because some customers turned to buying slightly larger quantities. These include products such as babies diapers,” he said.

Ms Agatha Kavishe, a vegetable seller at Mbezi Bus Terminal said before the disease erupted, she used to sell up to 100 bundles of vegetables just from 11am to late evening.

“But since this Covid-19 was reported, my business has been affected as I sell 60 bundles only a day,” she said.

She said she was currently surviving on the money she saved before, otherwise the situation would have been worse to close her business.

A bar owner at Kibamba Chama, Ms Suzan Mwakajumba, said the number of customers visiting her place for drinks has slightly declined since the outbreak of coronavirus.

“I’m praying day and night so that scientists would find a vaccine for this threat. People are afraid of congestions. So, in short I cannot tell you exactly how much I have been losing, but it is substantial,” she said.

The survey showed mixed reactions at Tegeta Nyuki Market, where some traders said they had increased sales while others said they were making losses.

An operator at Bukama Butchery, Mr Elias Byabato, said their sales had climbed as customers were buying large quantities. “I’m experiencing people flocking to my butchery to purchase up to 30kgs of meat compared to previous days when they were buying only a kilo or two,” he said.

“All in all, still I pray that the situation would normalise. It’s not healthy to live under fear of the unknown,” he said.

For her part, Mwajuma Ali who sells sardines at the market said business had slowed down.

She said before the pandemic was reported in the country she could sell up to 10kgs a day, but now she sells up to 3kg only.

Reported by Hellen Nachilongo, Alfred Zacharia, Gadiosa Lamtey and Rosemary Mirondo