Posted by: rlearmonth | March 25, 2008

Markets in Dili


Market vendors have established informal stalls in various places around Dili, the capital. During the civil unrest of 2006, most of the market stalls in government-designated areas were burned. And while the government has endeavored to establish new sites for them, many vendors have chosen to market their goods and produce at other places of their own choosing. This has presented a bit of a problem, both to traffic and to the government. Traffic is affected because the growing market stalls tend to expand into the street; government is affected because, awkwardly, the vendors defiantly fly the flag of the opposition political party, perhaps because they fault government for allowing their stalls to be destroyed in 2006.

Approaching the end of the rainy season, the markets are full of produce. The vendors operate through an ingenious marketing system that neatly adjusts to supply and demand. They display their produce in small pyramids, carefully stacked according to quality and appearance. A stack of whatever it is costs a dollar. If the produce is small and unattractive, the pyramid of produce will be bigger than if it is of higher quality. Both stacks are still a dollar. When supply is plentiful, as it now for, say, eggplant, the customer gets five or six nice eggplants for a dollar. As supply diminishes, there will be a smaller and sadder-looking pyramid of eggplants, still for a dollar. Among its advantages, the vendors seldom have to make change.

An uninitiated customer might want fewer items than are in a vendor-established pyramid. Don’t think about it.


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