Imported fruit jostle for space with Indian varieties

A man looks at a bunch of Californian Red Globe Grapes in a greengrocer's shop in New Delhi. The Red Globe Grapes are now being grown in Maharashtra. PTI

Fresh green kiwifruit from New Zealand and red globe grapes are gradually becoming popular in the domestic market, say experts.

"There is good demand for kiwis from Italy, as they are available from October to March, a period which coincides with the marriage season," says Ambrish Karwat, Chairman, Yuppa group, an agroproduce company which grows, imports, markets and distributes fruit in India.

"We imported 250 tonnes of kiwis and 100 tonnes of red globe grapes last year," says Karwat.
Kiwi has been imported into India primarily from Australia, New Zealand and Italy since 1996.

If we compare the prices of imported fruits to its domestic siblings, there is a huge gap with Indian farmers slowly bridging the demand.

Indian kiwi fruit, now being grown in Himachal Pradesh and Manipur, retails in the local market at Rs 150-180 whereas when imported from New Zealand or Australia, it costs around Rs 200-250 per kg.

It is the same story for red globe grapes. Grapes imported from California cost around Rs 200-250 per kg while the same variety grown in India retails for Rs 80-100.
"The red globe grapes were introduced in research institutes in India in 1983. Commercial cultivation began in 2003, when demand for the variety picked up after its import from California," says Dr G S Karibasappa, a principal scientist at the National Reaserch Centre for Grapes in Pune.

Available from May to July, red globe grapes are cultivated in Maharashtra and Karnataka and have a shelf life of 2-3 weeks.
The grapes are also exported to Singapore, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Gulf countries.
Bright yellow canary melons are, however, now no longer imported from Thailand and Afghanistan as they are being grown locally.
"We imported the kharbuza (melon) seeds from Taiwan five years ago and began cultivation in Ananthapur, Cuddapah, Kurnool and Chittoor districts of Andhra Pradesh," says Ravichandra Babu, a horticulture department official in Ananthapur.

The bright yellow fruit has a cream coloured flesh and is slightly larger than a muskmelon.

Fruit import has also triggered off greater investment in storage and warehousing facilities in the country which has resulted in better supply chain management.

"Our growers, wholesalers and retailers are able to look at what the world has to offer and have this unique opportunity to increase earnings by improving quality to match with imported produce," says Sumit Saran, director of the SCS Group, an agribusiness consulting firm.
Indian consumers would also rather pay a little more for well packaged fruit, which retains its quality.
"I would pay 10-15 rupees more for a fruit like grapes if there is no wastage and I do not need to sort them before I eat them," says Kabir Bogra, a tax manager at KPMG.

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