Kathmandu, November 6

The sweets traders are not very enthusiastic about the approaching Tihar festival — normally synonymous to brisk business — as they anticipate the coronavirus pandemic will surely dent the demand this year.

According to Suman Sayami, president of Sweets and Snacks Association Nepal and proprietor of Sweet Cave, Kalimati, since there is uncertainty about whether people will buy sweet items during Tihar as thousands of people have been infected with COVID-19 in the valley and whether the government would allow buying and selling activities during Tihar given the rising cases, traders are yet to prepare for the sweets market for the festival of lights, which begins next week.

This image shows Sweet Cave, an eating house in Kalimati, Kathmandu in November 2017. Photo courtesy: Rabindra Parajuli

“Our production of traditional sweet items this year is less than 10 per cent of what we used to make ahead of the Tihar festival in the past,” said Sayami, adding, “As we have been receiving only minimal orders, we are also planning to cater to over-the-counter sales during Tihar this year.”

As per him, the decreasing purchasing power of people because of the pandemic and their tendency to avoid unnecessary expenses will be other contributing factors for reduced sweets business in Tihar this year. “Moreover, a lot of people have been making sweets on their own these days following YouTube tutorials, which is also likely to reduce our business,” he added.

Similarly, Diwakar Rajkarnikar, proprietor of Ram Bhandar, Thapathali, said, “Since the sales of sweets did not go well in different festivities including Teej, Father’s Day and Dashain this year, we are not very optimistic about Tihar as well.”

He assumed that sales of sweets this Tihar will be only 50 per cent or even less than that of last year. “Since the demand for sweets is likely to decline in Tihar this year, our sweets production would also be less. Thus we will not have to follow a strict schedule for making sweets during the second biggest festival of the country this time around,” he said.

Meanwhile, traders claimed that consumers will get sweets at the same price as last year. “The price of raw materials has slightly increased, but this will not affect the price of sweets,” said Rajkarnikar.

He further advised shoppers to maintain social distancing and follow safety precautions while going to buy sweets. “We have also been running home delivery service, realising it is a convenient option at the time of COVID 19 crisis,” he said, adding that consumers can utilise such services which would be comparatively safer than buying sweets from crowded shops.

According to Rajkarnikar, consumers should also be conscious about the quality of sweets they buy. “Check the label and expiry date before buying packaged sweets,” he advised, adding, “Openly sold sweets, meanwhile, are generally made as well as sold fresh.”

Mohan Kumar Maharjan, spokesperson for Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, said that consumers can file complaints against fraudulent traders either through Hello Sarkar or through the phone number available on the department’s website. “We will take immediate action against such traders,” he claimed.