Prices of Himachal apples fail to bounce back

Shimla, July 22 (IANS) The prices of apples from Himachal Pradesh have failed to recover despite the arrival of the premium varieties in the market, traders here said Thursday.

The prices had crashed within weeks of their arrival early this month.

The traders said a bumper crop this year is turning out to be the pits for farmers as the fruit is not fetching remunerative prices like last year.

Horticulture department officials said the total apple production this season is set to touch a record three crore boxes of 20 kg each. Last year, the production was almost half – 1.4 crore boxes.

‘The big harvest is not fruitful for the growers as the prices remained on the lower side despite the arrival of superior varieties,’ said Gian Singh Chandel, chairman of the apple market committee at Dhalli, near here.

‘This week superior grade of Royal Delicious is fetching around Rs.1,100 per box against Rs.2,000 per box last year in the Dhalli market. Similarly, Rich-a-Red is getting Rs.1,000 per box against Rs.1,800 last year,’ he said.

At Azadpur, the Asia’s largest wholesale fruit market in Delhi, a box of superior grade apples is selling Rs.200 to Rs.300 more than Dhalli.

‘It’s really distressful that the prices have failed to bounce back even after the arrival of superior quality fruit. This year will be too bad for the growers as the cost of transportation and carton prices have also gone up. We are paying Rs.50 per box as transportation charges from Shimla to Delhi,’ said Kanwar Dayal Singh, a farmer of Kotkhai in upper Shimla.

‘We have stopped the harvesting as we waiting the market to recover. Moreover, good moisture in the soil these days enables the fruit to gain more optimum size and true colour,’ he added.

The harvesting of the crop began in the mid of June. Even an early variety like Tydeman’s Early Worcester, which is less juicy and pulpy as compared to superior ones, got a handsome price of Rs.800-900 per box. But within a week, the markets are flooded with apples, leading to sharp fall in the prices.

Horticulture Director Gurdev Singh said on an average over 1.50 lakh boxes are being despatched out of the state every day.

‘We are advising the growers not to harvest crop in haste and wait for the market to recover,’ he added.

More than 12 lakh boxes have been sent out of the state till date. By this time last year, only 33,000 boxes were sent.

However, for cold-storage firms, it is an excellent opportunity to snap up cheap apples.

An official of Adani Agrifresh Ltd, which has major cold-storage units in the state, said this year’s target is to procure 35,000 tonnes.

Apple is Himachal Pradesh’s main fruit crop and is being grown in nine out of 12 districts. The area under the apple crop has increased to 97,438 hectares in 2008-09 from 400 hectares in 1950-51. Currently, the apple industry is worth Rs.1,500 crore.

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