US and Chinese apples have nearly pushed their Himachali counterpart to the market corner, thanks to retail giants who pick up healthy Himachali in bulk leaving the frail ones to the battle for existence.
"If the trend continued for another two years, Himachali apple will be out," fear fruit wholesalers who are getting more orders for foreign apples now.
If the Himachali apple has to recover its lost ground, it will have to have a bigger, brighter and juicy look, say fruit wholesalers, adding, "No doubt Himachali apple is better in taste, but size does matter and it is where the foreign apples have an upper hand."
Wholesale fruit merchants at the local fruit mandi have already informed retailers to expect more of the imported variety of 'Washington' and 'Fuji' apples shipped from United States and Chinese markets round the year as all stocks of Himachali apples have been picked up in advance by large retail chains during the past six months for their distribution in retail chains. "The Reliance and Adani group have picked up all good quality apples in bulk from Himachal farmers who are facing their second worst season of low output this year," Moti Ram Prem Kumar, President of Fruit Merchants' Association told HT Lucknow Live.
He said good quality Himachali apples could only be found now in large retail stores and not with fruitwallahs as good quality had been picked up by the two large retail chains and stocked in cold storages.
The wholesale price of Himachali apples in Lucknow is currently pegged at Rs 70 to 75 per kg while retailing at Rs 90 to 100 per kg. On the other hand, Washington apples are costing Rs 2000 for 20 kg pack which retails at Rs 120 per kg in fruit shops. The Chinese 'Fuji' apples command a wholesale price of Rs 70 a kg while retailing at Rs 90 per kg, Kumar said.
Quite a huge tonnage of Washington and Fuji apples are being imported in Lucknow every year. This is on account of more Himachali apples now being sold at large retail chains than the fruitwallahs who want them desperately to augment sales, he added.
About 80 per cent of the apples are grown in Shimla district alone in Himachal Pradesh which accounts for about 80 per cent of the yield compared to other districts. The apple production was recorded at 265,000 tonnes during 2006-07 which was even less than half the production of 540,000 tonnes recorded during 2005-06, horticulture trade analysts said.