Street vendors vs. authorities

How Ivano-Frankivsk solves the problem with illegal street markets

Street trade in Ivano-Frankivsk is a big problem to the local authorities. People who take their homemade and homegrown products from villages become enemies to the police officers. In Ivano-Frankivsk illegal street markets sometimes are bigger than the legal market itself. People gather in huge rows and sell everything they can from food to old clothes. But food which they sell on the streets can cause a lot of risks.

Predictably that soon EU integration will make Ukraine to change the laws, especially towards the illegal street vendors. It means that authorities should pay more attention to the food safety. But right now the city itself should organize the normal trade in the food markets.

Specialists from State Sanitary-epidemiological station warn people that products from the streets can be really dangerous due to the unhealthy and unsanitary conditions of realization. Vitaly Fihlevskyy is a head of the main department in Ivano-Frankivsk region of state supervision over the observance of sanitary legislation of State Service of Ukraine on issues of food safety and consumer protection. He is convinced that food from the street vendors can cause a lot of problems and can even be dangerous for locals.

“Street trade is illegal. No one can guarantee the quality of those products, which people sell on the street. The grocery markets have traditional examination, which confirm the quality of products”,- Vitaly Fihlevskyy

The experts say that vendors usually don’t follow the rules of personal care (for example, selling food with dirty hands, because they don’t have a place where they can wash them), the clothes they wear is usually not for selling food.

According to the sanitary-epidemiological doctors street vendors also violate the way of transportation, storage and realization conditions of the food products. They sell products which easily get spoiled and they don’t even have the conditions for those type of products and that just cause the emergence and reproduction of different bacteria.

«80% of the diseases comes from food of poor quality. Food poisonings, salmonellosis, tuberculosis, anthrax, leptospirosis are really dangerous infectious diseases which you can easily get from the food you buy on the streets. The health is more important than cheaper products», — Vitaly Fihlevskyy

But for many people selling homegrown food, milk products or meat from their husbandry can be the only way to earn money. People which come from villages or suburbs of Ivano-Frankivsk complain that they can’t live for such a small salary and street markets is the only way for them to earn for living. So they sell food straight on the streets, so they won’t pay too much at the local market.

According to the law street self-organized markets are illegal. Selling food on the streets, squares, parks, courtyards is prohibited. In the Article 160, part 1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of Ukraine is written that for selling food on the streets you will get a fine of one to seven non-taxable minimum incomes. The non-taxable minimum income now is 17 uah, so you will be supposed to pay from 17 to 119 uah.

As soon as street vendors notice the camera they try to hide their faces or start yelling for being photographed

Galyna is 56, she’s a wife and a mother of three, and lives in Skobychivka, Bohorodchany region. Every morning Galyna wakes up at 4 am. in order to do everything in time and go to the Ivano-Frankivsk, where she sells her production. Homemade milk production. And when it’s a season she also sells homegrown fruits and vegetables. The woman doesn’t want to be associated with an image of a street vendor and think that the headship of the hospital won’t be happy about her second job. That is why she asks us not to make photos and change her name.

She agreed that we will use only one photo which doesn’t show her face properly.

Galyna works as sanitary at the hospital. Her husband is a driver at the same hospital. But their salary is not enough to provide the worth living for them and their three children. So they have hospodarka (two cows, ten chikens and a special area where they grow ecological plants). Most of the time they spend for preparation of those products and selling them near Ivano-Frankivsk food market.

They don’t have any permission for selling their milk production, eggs, fruits and vegetables. And they never heard of it as they confess. They usually stand outside the food market and don’t have a certain place, so almost every morning they have to find a new spot.

For Galyna and her husband it’s the only way they can make a normal living. They also have to pay for their older daughter’s college.

Near the official big food market there are a lot of street vendors which sell not only food, but even brooms, old and new clothes

As we talk near the food market a few people came across and asked about the price for milk and homemade cheese. Only two bought a few bottles of milk, but before the buyers look close at the bottle to make sure that milk is clean. Galyna insists that the milk is fresh and everything is healthy with a confident smile on her face. People don’t say much and buy it.

The police controls illegal street markets and composes administrative reports. In Ivano-Frankivsk you can see police officers walking by quite often. They walk around the most popular areas where the street vendors usually locate their products. At first they give a warning, but second comes the administrative fine. Talking with police officers as a journalist turns to be a hard thing to do. They briefly comment the situation with street markets and ask not to be named and photographed.

Raids through street mini-markets like this are regular. However, usually these educational talks, warnings, administrative records and even penalties are inefficient. The offender don’t care that much.

Street vendors try to avoid punishment in different ways, but the most common is running away. Really persistent and stubborn traders come back to the same place. Others — look for a new spot far enough from the guards of law and order.

Galyna and her husband are lucky ones. They didn’t had any conflicts with police yet. “We don’t see the police officers quite often, they don’t pay attention to us if we have a place near the market, just in case we put our products straight on the street near the road”, — Galyna says. She and her husband try to stand far away from the road, because from their experience people don’t trust those who sell food near the road straight on the ground.

Street vendors are quite active in promoting their products, but when it comes to the documents and certificates for work and food they star arguing with their eyes looking for a next police raid. Some of them, like Galyna and her husband, haven’t even heard of the possible options for the legalization of their own products. Others complain that documents for this cost a lot and they can’t afford this.

“To sell legally a person should come to the market, get the appropriate clothes, check and get all the documents. Market provides the work space. The veterinary and sanitary laboratories have state rates. If a person wants to sell products in the market, he or she need to prove that this products are safe”. — Vitaly Fihlevskyy

In Ivano-Frankivsk there’s a new initiative called “Urban scanning sessions”. It is working on a research about these street food markets. Young activists will find out the main problems which cause these huge rows of street vendors and will make a plan of solutions which will satisfy both the vendors and the authorities. But first of all it’s about cleaning the city space and making the food for people of Ivano-Frankivsk as safe as possible.

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