Page last updated at 07:39 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009
World markets feel downturn

Inside Mumbai's famous Crawford market.

By Anna Cunningham
BBC News, Mumbai

Crawford Market, in the bustling heart of India's financial capital Mumbai, has been a city landmark since the mid-19th Century.

It sells the same things today as it did in 1869 - fruit, vegetables, meat, spices and even live animals - but lately prices have been rising, and sales are down.

India is still projected to enjoy healthy economic growth in the coming year, but the global economic downturn has kicked in here.

It was the city's original municipal market - named after the first commissioner, Arthur Crawford - and the first building with electric lighting.

Down one narrow alleyway, perched high on a chair above crates over flowing with onions, potatoes and garlic, sits 58-year-old Iqbal Hussain, whose family has been selling and exporting for three generations.

"Since last December we have not received any order from foreign vessels," says. "The recession has affected us, business is down 50%."

Prudent shoppers

Until India relaxed its protectionist stance towards foreign trade in the 1990s, the stalls in Crawford Market's warren of aisles were one of the few places in Mumbai to stock overseas goods.

Shoppers in the Crawford Market
Indian shoppers are traditionally prudent
Crowds still teem around the foreign sweets, chocolates and electrical items or the foreign fruits and vegetables that sit alongside local produce, such as the famous Alphonso mango.

But Baban Dagdu Gundaal, aged 65, who has been working at Crawford Market for 40 years, says costs are rising. "The prices have increased, we have to pass it on," he says. "But customers are not willing to pay."

In November, the IMF predicted India's economy would grow by 6.3% in 2009/10, though that figure has now been revised downward, to 5.1%.

This month, India's government relaxed its tight public spending targets to protect itself from the fallout of the global slowdown.

But Indian consumers, traditionally prudent, have become cautious. Department stores, supermarkets and shopping chains all complained of falling third-quarter sales last year, particularly in the run-up to the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali - normally a big spending time.

Even spice sellers are feeling the pinch. Jabbar Prajapati says the cost of saffron has rocketed from 60 rupees (0.82 / $1.20) per gram last year, to 300 rupees (4 / $6) per gram. "People are not ready to buy at those prices," he says.

But life in Crawford Market goes on. Customers haggle for a good price in corners of the market, out of the intense heat of the sun, traders ply their goods and foreign visitors admire the Victorian architecture.


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