Himachal apples turn juicer as rupee's value tumbles

Apple growers in Himachal Pradesh are reaping the benefit of rupee’s wilted value. The fall has left the Indian government perplexed but not the apple growers.

They are rejoicing as the softness of the Indian currency against the US dollar has made imported apples more expensive.

“The imported apples are quite costly these days and beyond the reach of the common man. So, apples from Himachal that are comparatively cheaper are their preferred choice,” Gopal Mehta, a prominent apple grower of Kotgarh in upper Shimla, said.

The rupee had gained 24 paise and was at 59.59 to the dollar on Tuesday morning against 59.35 at close of trade on Friday.

 In 2012-13, the total production was over 20.4 million boxes - 20 per cent less than state’s normal yield of 25 million boxes (of 20 kg each).

This season the state is heading to a bumper production of over 35 million apple boxes.

Trade representatives say 40-50 per cent of the country’s apple market is being captured by the imported ones, mainly from China, the US, New Zealand, Australia and Chile.

A standard box containing 20 kg of top quality imported apples, which ranged from Rs 1,700 to Rs 2,000 ($29-34) in Delhi’s Azadpur wholesale fruit market last year, now costs around Rs 2,600.

“There is a sharp decline in apple imports. Of course, the domestic market gets a push,” Sanjay Mahajan, deputy general manager of agro commodities trading house Adani Agrifresh, said.

The retail price of the imported apples, which was around Rs 150 a kg last year, is currently above Rs 200, which is almost double that of the domestic fruit, he said.

According to the directorate general of commercial intelligence and statistics, the import of apples had increased by more than 50 per cent from 1,34,576 tonnes in 2010-11 to 1,99,262 tonnes in 2012-13.

Trade representatives say the major influx of imported apples is from China, which has controlled almost 40 per cent of the total market, followed by the US, Chile and New Zealand.

DGCI&S says China exported 73,648 tonnes of apples to India (out of the total Indian import of 188,071 tonnes in 2011-12).

During that year 63,651 tonnes was imported from the US, 21,331 from Chile, 10,425 from New Zealand and 2,137 tonnes from Italy and the rest from other countries.
“We will definitely procure maximum fruit from the domestic market,” Mahajan added.
This year, Adani Agrifresh aims to procure 22,000 tonnes of apples from this state. Last year it procured 16,500 tonnes.

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