Himachal apple prices crash due to oversupply

Shimla, July 4 (IANS) The prices of apples from Himachal Pradesh have crashed within weeks of their arrival in the markets due to oversupply and poor quality of the fruit, traders said here Sunday.

‘When the apple crop reached the wholesale market in the third week of June, the growers got a handsome price of Rs.800-900 for a 20-kg box of Tydeman’s Early Worcester. But within a week, the markets are flooded, leading to massive fall in the prices,’ Pratap Singh Chauhan, president of the marketing yard at the fruit and vegetable market in Bhattakuffar here, told IANS.

‘The prices came down to Rs.400 to Rs.450 a box. These days it is around Rs.350,’ he said.

Chauhan said premature harvesting was the reason for the poor quality of varieties like Red Gold, Red June and Tydeman’s Early Worcester which were undersize and lacked true colour.

‘The farmers have started harvesting the undersize crop in a bid to earn better prices at the beginning of the apple season,’ he said.

Currently, 2,000 to 5,000 boxes of early varieties, including Red Gold and Red June, are reaching the markets in Shimla district daily.

Last year Tydeman’s Early Worcester fetched between Rs.1,100 and Rs.1,400 a box.

Ashok Sharma, a trader at the Dhalli wholesale fruit market near here, said: ‘The main reason for less demand for the apples these days is the surplus arrival of good quality mangos in the market at much cheaper rates. People are still preferring to buy sweet mangos than less juicy, pulpy apples (early varieties are generally less juicy).’

‘We are facing tough competition from China and Australia too. Those who want to relish good quality these days, he/she will go for the imported varieties,’ he added.

Horticulture Minister Narender Bragta, however, said: ‘There are no reasons to panic as the early harvest cannot determine the future trend. With the arrival of the superior varieties, the prices would bounce back.’

The horticulture department estimates that there would be a record

production this time. They say the apple yield would cross the 2008-09 mark of 510,000 tonnes.

Last year, the production had declined to 280,000 tonnes due to a dry monsoon and a snowless winter.

The economy of the Himalayan state is highly dependent on horticulture – besides hydroelectric power and tourism. The apple industry is worth around Rs.1,500 crore a year.

Besides apple, other fruits like pears, peaches, cherries, apricots, kiwi, strawberry, olive, almonds and plums are the major commercial crops of the state.

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