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Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019

Rain upsets growers’ applecart in Himachal

The premium varieties of apple, which were being sold for ₹2,500 to ₹ 3,700 per 20-kg box, is fetching between ₹1,000 to ₹1,200 per these days.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2019 22:04 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times, Shimla
(HT Photo)

With the rain playing spoilsport, apple growers in Himachal Pradesh are worried as the bumper crop is proving to be a bane than a boon.

This season has been a jinx for in the first half, scanty rainfall took a toll on the quality of the fruit. The state got 22% below average rainfall which affected the size and colour of the fruit that failed to attain sufficient moisture.

By June-end, the demand for apple started growing, forcing farmers to use artificial ripening chemicals to enhance the colour, which though managed to get them decent returns initially, reduced the fruit’s shelf life. In the absence of storage facilities, growers were forced to sell the produce at lower rates.

“The fruit wholesale buyers, known as ladanis, are usually wary of buying fruits with ethrel spray. This time, farmers in the mid and lower belts resorted to spraying the chemical to enhance the fruit’s colour,” says Anup Bhalaik, an apple grower in Kotgarh.

“The cold stores in different parts of the states opened late due to which farmers had to sell the produce at less than the average price,” he says.

Prices crash

The worst was yet to come. As harvesting progressed, prices dropped further in August and the markets crashed by 50% to 80% due to heavy rain in the hill state that saw 33% above average rainfall.

Despite a glut, the demand for apple fell sharply as the main markets, outside Delhi, were fighting floods too. The premium varieties of apple, which were being sold for ₹2,500 to ₹ 3,700 per 20-kg box, is fetching between ₹1,000 to ₹1,200 per these days.

Golden apples are being sold at ₹400 per box; red golden at ₹600 to ₹1,000 and royal apple at ₹1,000 to 1,800.

“About 3.7 crore boxes of apples are being projected for this year. Apple prices saw a dip few days back due to floods, which sharply decreased their demand. Supply was also hampered as major road links were snapped,” said horticulture director ML Dhiman, adding that the prices are showing an upward movement and stabilising gradually.

Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal are the main apple markets.

Supply disrupted

Similar views were echoed by Himachal fruit, vegetable and flower growing association president Harish Chauhan who said the entire supply chain was disrupted due to excessive rain this year.

According to experts, the apple market usually witnesses a price crash every year during monsoon. But, in the wake of rain fury across the country this year, the markets, which usually bounce back after a brief lull, are unable to pick up.

Himachal Pradesh is a major apple-growing state in the country, with more than 90% of the produce sold in the domestic market. Apple alone constitutes 84% of the state’s fruit economy, projected at ₹4,500 crore.

First Published: Aug 26, 2019 22:04 IST

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