Gutkha banned from today, traders bet on paan
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Throughout Monday, Paresh Patel, the 32-year-old owner of a popular paan shop on Rajkot's Yagnik Road, was urging his regular customers to buy gutkha in bulk at discounted rates.
"My daily gutkha sale is around Rs 2,500. I sell some 600 small and big packets per day. Most of us stored it expecting bulk buying before Tuesday's ban, but it has not happened. Though for the past two days we haven't refreshed gutkha supplies, we are still left with some stock in hand," said Patel, adding that wholesale prices of various gutkha brands have dropped by Rs 15 to 20 in the last two days.
The ban on gutkha in Gujarat, announced by the chief minister at his Independence Day speech and followed up with a notification by the Food Safety Commissioner on August 28, will come into effect on September 11, outlawing the manufacture, storage, distribution or sale of gutkha or pan masala that contains either tobacco or nicotine or their loose ingredients for one year.
Gujarat, a major producer of tobacco with an output of 2.8 lakh tonnes in 2010-11 alone, will be the seventh state to effect such a ban.
Meanwhile, the one-month gap between announcement and actual ban has helped most traders adjust their businesses, and the proprietors of almost all large pan shop owners say the ban may have little impact on businesses.
The proprietor of a pan shop on Ahmedabad's busy Judges' Bungalow Road said he stopped keeping stock more than two to three weeks ago when news of the ban spread, as did his partners, all of whom together run three such shops selling everything from pan and gutkha to deodorant and chocolates.
"On an average, we used to sell up to 1,000 packets of gutkha each month, each packet having 60 pouches or so in it. We earned about Rs 10 to Rs 15 in profit from every packet. It's a small dent in business, but at least our main sales are from normal paan," he said, adding customers who used to consume gutkha are now increasingly switching to paan.
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