Hyderabad: While the corona virus may have officially arrived in Hyderabad only on Monday, the fear and paranoia have been here for many weeks. This fear has caused the price of face masks to skyrocket - by nearly 500 per cent in some cases.
Several surgical supplies retailers and wholesalers told Deccan Chronicle that many manufacturers are choosing to sell the masks on their own, at high prices. Some even said they simply stopped stocking them. Customers from all walks of life are reportedly visiting shops desperate to buy even one mask.
Srinivas Rao who works in a shop in Kukatpally said the price of three-ply masks, considered the most effective, has skyrocketed. “We would buy them at wholesale at Rs 3 per piece. Now even if we are willing to pay Rs 18 per piece, we are unable to buy them,” he said.
Mr Rao complained that middlemen/brokers are making merry due to the prevailing conditions. "Since there is worldwide demand for masks, most of the masks are being exported. At least 35 countries are getting masks from Hyderabad, leaving very few for retailers. The middlemen who are facilitating these transactions are minting money," he said.
Also, many retailers said the market is flooded with inferior masks. One retailer from Hyderguda said, "People are so afraid that they are willing to buy any mask they find. A bad mask is as good as not having one."
Such is the frenzy that three retailers who were called by this reporter to inquire about the situation, got so excited at hearing the word "mask" that they asked whether this reporter had any to sell to them.
A retailer from Sree Nidhi Surgicals in Chandanagar said that a few months ago, she would buy three-ply masks at Rs 120 per packet. “Now, we have refused to sell them. Wholesalers are asking Rs 1,800 per packet! Considering the margins we can possibly make, it just isn't practical selling them,” she said. She added that one customer recently came in asking for three lakh masks.