With the new apple varieties being imported from foreign countries raking in more cash for the farmers, traditional apple varieties are gradually losing out in the race.
Even in the “apple bowl of country” — Kotgarh — these foreign varieties are helping farmers make much more as compared to the traditional varieties.
With a 4% contribution to the state’s GDP, apple is grown in Kinnaur, Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Chamba and Sirmaur districts.
Being a commercially important fruit, as many as 450 cultivars of apple collected from all over the world are grown in the state. The widely-grown varieties are Royal Delicious, Rich-A-Red, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious.
These came to be introduced in the hill state over the years after an American Samuel Stokes, who later changed his name to Satyananda Stokes, began to cultivate apples on a piece of farmland in 1916.
A missionary, Stokes, settled in Kotgarh after a major earthquake in Kangra in 1905. He initially introduced the Royal Delicious, an American apple variety that gradually spread to various parts of the state reinvigorating Himachal’s economy.
But the variety is now being superseded by new varieties, like the Italian JeromineApple, that sells for almost double the price.
A progressive apple grower, Moti Ram Chauhan from Dhangvi village of Kotkhai, who produced over 1,000 10kg boxes of Jeromine Apple, said the variety fetched him about `1,400 per 10kg in the Delhi market, almost double than the traditional varieties.
“As such, I have replaced the traditional apple varieties with imported ones. Majority of them are Super Chief and Jeromine,” he said.
Another farmer, Tek Chand Verma from Theog, who is growing Gale Gala applevariety from New Zealand, said, “I sold a 20kg box of Gale Gala in Chandigarh for `2,100. This is a self-pollination variety,” he said. On the other hand, Verma added, 20kg box of traditional Royal Delicious apple fetched him just `1,500 in Chandigarh.
“Production of Royal Delicious is lesser than that of imported varieties. All imported varieties are on rootstocks. Some of them are dwarf trees, which also lessen the labour expenses besides giving more crops,” said Kamlesh Singh, a grower from Narkanda.
Horticulture deputy director HR Sharma said apple constituted 90% of the fruit crops of the state. Last year 581 metric tonne (MT) apple was produced and, and this year over 1 crore apple boxes had been supplied to different markets across the country.
Imported apple produce a nightmare for farmers
Despite the locally produced apple being fresh and rich in taste, mostly due to the high-altitude environment, fruit growers in the state are getting the jitters with huge import ofapples from the US, England, Chile, China, Iran and Israel. Facing stiff competition from foreign brands that is exacerbated by the smuggling of apple from Afghanistan and high-altitude areas of Pakistan, apple growers have been demanding increase in the import duty of foreign apples.
Anna apple: Israel
Gale Gala apple: New Zealand
Super Chief Spur Red Delicious apple: US
Grenny Smith Challenger: Italy
Redlam Gala: Italy
Scarlet Spur: US
Scarlet Gala: US
Red Velox: Italy