East Street Market’s fruit and veg traders fight for survival as prices skyrocket


Fruit and veg traders on East Street Market, Walworth are seeing costs soar as inflation, rising energy prices, and war in Ukraine coincide to hit local business. 

Walworth’s fresh produce traders say some items’ prices have tripled in three weeks, with wholesalers passing the escalating financial burden onto them. 

59-year-old Ali Surchi has owned a stall on East Street since 2000. He said: “Of course I’m worried. We’ll have to close down if this keeps happening.”

“If every week you’re losing money, you can’t carry on.” 

Rising energy prices, caused by a post-Covid industrial activity surge, and the Ukraine war, have seen food industry bosses warn food prices could rise 15 per cent this year.

Strikes by Spanish truckers over crippling fuel costs have also been blamed for supply chains disruptions. 

30-year-old Aras Mustafa from Iraq, also a fruit and veg trader on East Street Market, said: “It’s bad for us, and customers as well, because people come here looking for a cheap price.

“Even when I was in Iraq and there was war it wasn’t like this!”

He said, two weeks ago, £1 got you a bowl brimming with tomatoes, but now customers can only get a paltry three or four for the same price.

A wholesale box of chilli peppers did cost Aras £8. Now wholesalers are demanding £15, over the double the price. 

In just a month, wholesale boxes of plantain have gone from £6 to an unheard-of £22.

Ali Surchi says things have got particularly bad recently, but believes the demise of market traders is a long-term trend.  

He says increased house prices and new housing developments are pushing his old customer base out: “All the people who lived here are leaving. Rich people go to the supermarket.” 

He also blamed the council for upping the costs of market plots. On some days recently, he has made less than £20 profit. 

Muhammad Mobaeeri, who has traded for 25 years was more optimistic saying: “Prices were going up but they’re coming back down now. Everything is coming down.”

He said customers didn’t complain when they prices went up because “that’s the way of the market”.

A recent Office for National Statistics study found that 39 per cent of adults had cut down on grocery shops due to the cost of living crisis. 


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