How China upset India’s apple cart
China’s industrial output, spanning everything from electronic goods and construction materials to readymade garments and shoes, has consistently edged out Indian merchandise in the international market. Now, China has taken the battle to the apple market in Nepal.
Nestled geographically between the two Asian giants, India and China, Nepal’s apple market has traditionally seen cut throat competition between the two.
In the last two years, though, Nepal’s fruit markets, especially apples, have seen total domination by China, which is also the world's biggest apple growing nation.
Cheaper and better packaged, Chinese apples have quickly found favour with retailers in Kathmandu. Improved varieties of Guoguan and Jinguan have muscled out Indian varieties like Chaubatia, Anupam and Sunehari.
Apples are a popular offering during pujas in Nepal, and its fruit market is large relative to the size of its population. “Our market is now totally dependent on Chinese apples — they’re available round the year,” says Dinesh Prasad, a fruit retailer in Kathmandu, adding that apart from being cheaper, Chinese apples are also juicier and better tasting than Indian ones.
The price of Chinese apples in the retail market ranges between Rs (Nepali) 50 and
Rs 100 per kg, while the seasonal Indian apples (post import duties) are more than Rs 150 per kg.
“Chinese exporters plan their supply in such a way that markets in Nepal are always flooded with their apples,” says Raghabendra Singh, a fruit wholesaler in Kalimati, Kathmandu’s largest fruit market. Retailers here claim Indian apples only show up in Nepal’s fruit market between December and January, and now account for less than 10 per cent of total traded volume in Nepal.
“India has never sent its best stock to us — how will Indian apples compete with Chinese ones here,” says trader Rajiv Mahato, who’s been in the fruit business for over two decades. He explains that there was a time when India accounted for almost 70 per cent of apple supply into Nepal, the rest of it sourced locally from orchards in Mustang, Ropla and other districts in Nepal.
“Now, Indian apples have almost been wiped out of the market,” Mahato says.