Informal market stalls are a common sight in crowded public spaces or at the roadside. Such stalls might sell anything — from vegetables grown in a nearby garden, to meat products or aromatic smoked fish of unknown origin. While people are aware it’s not safe to buy from such markets, as there’s no way of knowing where the vegetables were grown or where the fish come from, they buy anyway, perhaps to support an old lady by purchasing a bunch of dill, or because products are cheaper there than in the shop, or because nowhere else sells mushrooms or blueberries that come straight from the forest.
The state services responsible for order, legal compliance and public health try to suppress such informal markets. However, as soon as the lilies-of-the-valley blossom or the blueberries ripen, people selling forest products set up stall along the nearest highways, and villagers bring seasonal fruits and vegetables, honey, milk and many other products to sell.
Discuss the possible conflicts and solutions, as well as the views of different stakeholders. How do you think the problem can be solved?
Attempts to stop such informal trade are accompanied by permanent conflicts. In keeping with the regulations in force, the police disband such markets, although this does not prevent traders from returning once the police have gone. There are always people ready and willing to buy fresh products, who sometimes even defend street traders from the police. During blueberry season, there may even be criminal incidents along roads near forests where blueberries are harvested, as traders fight for the most favourable locations. Criminal gangs may even take goods from the stalls in order to sell them for themselves at a higher price.
Traders are trying to earn as much money as possible, typically through sales of seasonal products. For many, this is the only source of income, so they are not concerned about nature protection or public health. They do not have stalls at established markets, as they are unwilling to pay the official (and unofficial) duties and taxes — partly because they typically have very small quantities of produce to sell.
People want to buy fresh products direct from the field or forest, at a low price. They typically do not understand the hazards related to these products, and are given little information about the possible risks. People are in fact creating a demand for these dangerous products, and facilitating illegal trade. Without sufficient information, consumers are unwilling to look for an alternative to the informal markets.
Environmentalists oppose the informal markets, as there is no control over the products. Low-quality, contaminated products that are harmful to health, as well as endangered species, may end up being sold at such markets. Environmentalists can organise awareness-raising campaigns, and can cooperate with local communities to organise the collection of mushrooms or berries in an appropriate way (for example through mushroom hikes or the picking of small amounts of wild herbs).