Ban on import of cheap apples bring cheer to fruit growers in Himachal
After years of demands fruit growers in Himachal, Centre prohibit import of apples where the cost, insurance, and freight import price is less than or equal to ₹50 per kg
In good news for the state’s fruit growers, the central government prohibited the import of apples where the cost, insurance, and freight (CIF) import price is less than or equal to ₹50 per kg — changing the import policy to “prohibited” from “free”.
A notification to the effect was issued to the director general of foreign trade on Monday. The import of apples will remain free if the price is above ₹50 per kg.
Terming it a victory for apple growers of Himachal, Samyukt Kisan Morcha Harish Chauhan convener said the import of foreign apples had been severely denting their sales. “Iran’s apple was imported in India at an average ₹20-25, on which import duty of 50% was imposed taking its price to ₹30 to 35,” said Chauhan.
With a fixed minimum price for import at ₹50 per kg, the price of Iranian apple would go up to ₹75 allowing local fruit to better compete with it in the market, he noted.
Notably, Kashmir had also been demanding the government to raise import duty on apples.
A competitive space
For the last two years, home-grown apples had been facing stiff competition from duty-free fruits being imported from Iran under India‘s free trade agreement. Large consignments of apples are shipped to ports in Gujarat and Maharashtra, while some are routed to markets in north India through the Attari-Wagah border.
Large quantities of Iran’s red delicious variety and those grown in Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan would earlier crowd the Indian markets.
SKM co-convener and former Shimla mayor Sanjay Chauhan said the apple import from Bhutan has been exempted, but the same is unlikely to hurt Himachal growers. He said the decision will also stop the illegal import of apples through South Asian Free Trade Countries (SAFTA).
SKM had been demanding a 100% import duty on foreign apples, with representatives raising the issue during the Centre’s pre-budget meeting for the last three years. Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, however, had made it clear that under the WTO pact, a maximum of 50% duty can be levied on apples, adding that the Union ensures that foreign apples first reach ports in southern India so it does not directly impact the apple grown in North.
Apple alone makes for a ₹6,000 core economy in Himachal and sustains more than 1.75 families in Shimla, Kullu and Kinnaur. It covers 48% of the state’s total area under fruit crops and about 81% of the production during 2021-22 financial year. The area under apple has increased from 400 hectares 1950-51 to 3,025 hectares in 1960-61. It stood at 1,15,016 hectares in 2021-22.
The fluctuations in the production of apples during the last few years have attracted the government’s attention. The state is trying to explore and harness the vast potential through diversified horticulture production in agro-ecological zones.
BJP jumps to claim credit
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Himachal chief minister Jairam Thakur thanked the Centre for a “historic” decision, saying the ban on the import of apples priced less than ₹50 per kg will benefit apple growers immensely.
“We wholeheartedly thank the central government and the entire leadership of the BJP for this historic decision,” he said.
Thakur said that the cheap apple imported from Iran and Turkey was causing huge losses to the local growers, also noting the apples being smuggled into India through Afghanistan without paying import duty. He added that his party’s government had raised this issue many times.