Cheap Iranian import now threatening stored Himachal apples

Cheap Iranian import now threatening stored Himachal apples

After a lean apple season that was marred by weather vagaries and pandemic-induced lockdown last year, there was a huge yield in the hilly state also known as the fruit bowl of the country.

Total 2.84 crore apple boxes were produced this year while the last year recorded a 3.43 crore yield.

The varieties produced in Himachal were sold in the open market during the season, but about one lakh metric tonnes of apples were kept in the cold stores as well as the controlled atmospheric stores in different parts of the country including, Chandigarh, Kundli and Sonepat in Haryana, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Hyderabad and Vijayawada. But now again, the cheap apples from Iran are threatening the Himachal apples.

“The cheap imports from Iran have killed the market for Kashmiri apples and conventional cold-stored apples from Himachal as Iranian apples are also bound to impact the controlled atmosphere stored apples, making the trade unviable and non-remunerative,” said Lokinder Singh Bisht, president, PGA Progressive Growers’ Association. Growers from Himachal and Kashmir have been repeatedly demanding the government to raise import duty on apples.

For the last two years, home-grown apples have been facing stiff competition from duty-free fruits being imported from Iran under the India‘s Free Trade Agreement. Large consignments of apples are also shipped to ports in Gujarat and Maharashtra, while some are routed to markets in north India through the Attari-Wagah border.

“It is mostly the Red Delicious variety grown in Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan that makes its way into India. Despite numerous representations to the Centre by orchardists in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, duty-free import of fruits has not been rolled back. Chief minister Jai Ram Thakur recently asked the Union government to raise the duty on apple import, but we have been constantly demanding the same for long,” said Harish Chauhan, convener, Hill State Horticulture Forum comprising growers from Himachal, Jammu, Kashmir and Uttarakhand.

“Cheap Iranian apple is definitely giving competition to the apple produced in Himachal and Kashmir,” said a young entrepreneur, Abhinav Jaggi, who owns online Agri Fresh stores. A 10-kilogram box of Iranian apples cost about 400 to 600 per kilogram of apples, “he said, adding that Iranian apples are gaining ground with retail fruit sellers.

Despite erratic weather and unseasonal rains, Himachal Pradesh witnessed the production of more than 3.43 crore boxes in the 2021 apple season, which is also the highest production in the last five years.

The previous record is of 3.88 crore boxes in the year 2015. The highest ever production of 5.11 crore boxes was achieved in the year 2010.

Compared to the previous five years, apple production in 2021 has been good. Though the production was large, orchardists didn’t get the price for the product as the hailstorm and unseasonal snow and rain had battered the crop.

Due to the dented produce, the B-grade apple didn’t fetch expected prices in the market after mid-August. Till the first week of August, when the good quality produce arrived in the market, the orchardists got a price of 3,500 per box. However, the prices fell sharply in the second week and one box could hardly fetch between 1,800 to 2,200 which resulted in huge losses to the marginal and small farmers.

In 2021, a record 73,216.67 metric tonnes, which comes around 36 lakh boxes, were procured by the government undertakings like Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Produce Marketing & Processing Corporation (HPMC) and Himachal Pradesh State Cooperative Marketing And Consumer’s Federation (Himfed) under the market intervention scheme.

The government had fixed a price of 9.50 per kilogram apple under the MIS scheme which was quite low as compared to the MIS prices in Jammu and Kashmir. This wasn’t enough for the orchardists to recover their input cost.


    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.
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