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Himachal apples give imported varieties a run for their money in Indian market

Good quality Himachali apples are being sold for Rs 2,500 to Rs 3000 per standard box while American apple varieties are selling between Rs 1,800 to Rs 2,200.

india Updated: Aug 04, 2018 08:38 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times, Shimla
Himachal apples,Apples,Imported apples
Workers packing apples in boxes in Shimla on Friday.(HT Photo)

Apples grown in Himachal Pradesh are giving a run for their money to imported varieties, particularly those from the China and the US, in the Indian market although the crop has fallen prey to vagaries of the weather.

The traditional Himachali variety, Royal Delicious, is fetching a higher price than apples grown in the US, as plucking of the fruit picks up following a slow start in mid-July because of a strike by truckers.

“Good quality apples are being sold for Rs 2,500 to Rs 3000 per standard box( 20 kilograms).” said Partap Chauhan, a fruit merchant in Shimla’s Dhalli Sabzi Mandi.

The American apple varieties are selling between Rs 1,800 to Rs 2,200 per standard box.

Apple farming was introduced in the region by Samuel Evan Stokes, known as Satyanand Stokes, an American missionary settled in Kotgarh, in 1916. More than 450 cultivars of apple are now grown in the hilly state .In terms of commercial importance, the main varieties are Royal Delicious, Rich-A-Red, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious.

“Indians have more preference for the apple varieties which are a rich red in colour. Moreover, the traditional Royal variety has more shell life than any other, “said Abhinav Jaggi, a fruit merchant in New Delhi.

Demand for Himachal apples has also increased in the markets of Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Surat, Bengalauru , Vadodra and Hyderabad, traders say.

According to Himachal government surveys, the state is expected to produce 19.2 million 20-kg boxes of apples in 2018-19, the second consecutive year of below-normal production. In 2017-18, apple production fell to 22.3 million boxes from the annual norm of 25 million boxes.

Weather has hit apple production in HImachal Pradesh.

“Less snow reduced moisture level in the soil, it impacted the blooming of apple trees. The damage was more in the apple trees in lower elevations below 7,000 feet,” said horticulture director Manohar Dhiman . “Drought -like conditions in May- June further affected fruit size .“

Apple growers of Himachal have been wary of imported varieties. Apple growers have for the past five years demanded an increase in customs duty on foreign apples.

Currently, there is a 50% import duty on foreign apples. America and China are the two main exporters of apples to India .

“Despite being the world’s fifth largest apple producer, India has become a target market for the US apple.” said Lokinder Singh, president of the Progressive Apple Growers Association of Himachal .

Last year, 250,000 tonnes of apple were imported, mainly from China, US, New Zealand, Chile, Iran and Afghanistan.

Apples produced in Himachal are also facing a threat from those being smuggled to India via Afghanistan. Apples from different countries, after reaching Iran, are being smuggled to the countries that signed the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement in 2004, including India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

First Published: Aug 04, 2018 08:15 IST