A small street in the Qissa Khawni Bazaar in Peshawar hosts the city’s claim to a horticulturalist’s dream. Translating to Flower Street, the city’s flower business was based here until a few years ago, when shops began to close down amid changing trends.
Syed Mahmud, a trader who has been associated with the business for the last four decades, is not hopeful about its future, attributing the closure of three shops to indifference from the government. “During Muharram, authorities close down the bazaar for four days, so how can one do business in such a situation?” he said.
Perhaps part of the reason for his discontent is that the flower business is no longer concentrated in Qissa Khawni Bazaar, having spread to Ramdas Bazaar and other parts of the city. Tahir Ahmed, another trader, said that changing traditions are also a contributing factor in the business’s demise. Where previously people would bring bouquets to Hajjis and wedding celebrations, “Now they prefer soft drinks and juices for such occasions,” he said.
However, flower plantations along Kohat Road on the outskirts of the provincial capital suggest a different story. Local farmers say that over the past few years, marigold plantations have routinely increased due to rising demand.
Pointing to his field, local farmer Samin Jan says that the crop has been sold in advance for Rs20,000. “It depends on the general mood; demand goes up around Hajj and wedding season and falls around Muharram time,” he said, adding that prices fluctuate accordingly. However, he also stated that with the increased supply due to a rise in plantations over recent years, profits have decreased.
Karim Jan, another farmer, said that while business is usually brisk, it also witnesses much fluctuation, with prices alternating between sky-high and rock bottom. The statement brings Ahmed’s fear to the fore: “the retailer does not earn much – farmers are the actual beneficiaries since we purchase at rates dictated by them,” he said.
There are about 15 shops in Ramdas Market, while other flower shops have opened up on Dalazak Road, Saddar, Tehkal and other parts of the city. All the while, flowers continue to bloom in the villages on the outskirts of the city, creating a beautiful sight at the start of spring every year.