Worn out by weather, apples getting dearer for customers
Heavy rains, floods and other adverse weather conditions have badly hit the production of apples in the key apple-growing states of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. The deficit in production, accompanied by rising transit costs is driving the prices of apples upwards across the country.
Image Source: Pixabay
India is ranked as the 5th largest producer of apples in the world, although majority of the apples produced are consumed domestically due to their extensive popularity. Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttarakhand are the major apple-producing regions in India.
Apple production for 2022-23 in the country is expected at around 24 lakh tonnes. Jammu and Kashmir remains the largest producer of apples, accounting for about 75% (17 lakh tonnes) of the total domestic yield. About 20% (6 lakh tonnes) of the apple produce comes from Himachal Pradesh. In terms of number of boxes, J&K produces about 140 million boxes of apples annually, while Himachal Pradesh produces about 30 million boxes. Around 1.6 million apple growers in these two states depend on apple farming to make a living.
The following table shows apple production in the major apple-growing states in the country during the year 2021-22.
Apple production in 2021-22
|1||Jammu & Kashmir||1,719.42||70.54|
Source: National Horticulture Board (NHB)
Some popular varieties of apples grown in India are:
- Jammu and Kashmir: Golden Delicious, Lal Ambri, Mollies Delicious, Starkrimson, Red June, Irish Peach, Benoni and Tydeman’s Early
- Himachal Pradesh: Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, McIntosh
- Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh: McIntosh, Chaubattia Anupam
- Tamil Nadu: Irish Peach and Zouches Pipin; KKL 1, Carrington and Winterstein, Rome Beauty and Parlin’s Beauty
This year however, heavy rains and flash floods have damaged the apple fruit crop in the Himalayan states of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, which account for nearly all the apples produced in the country.
Grappling with challenges bounced by nature
The apple production in Himachal Pradesh is expected to decline this year due to poor snowfall in winters and excess rainfall between April and August. As sunlight cannot reach the root section of plants, the size of apple fruit is likely to be smaller. The use of pesticides has been reported as quite ineffective during the year in controlling the fall of leaves. Apple growers are also worried about the outbreak of fungal disease in the harvesting season.
The abnormally warm winter and impertinent rains have together affected the overall production of apples. Kashmir, the largest apple producer received around 50% more rainfall than the average during the current monsoon season that began from 1st June. Himachal Pradesh, the second-largest apple producer also received about 79% more rainfall than average. The damage to the apple crop has brought down its overall production by nearly 50% of the normal yield.
Apple farmers in regions like Shimla, Kullu, Manali, and Jammu & Kashmir are also finding it difficult to transport their apple produce to the markets. Landslides have uprooted trees and damaged the fruits. The vehicles transporting apples are getting grounded in transit causing the decay of many apples. Farmers are trying to adjust to the challenging circumstances by reducing the package sizes and delivering apples as soon as they are harvested so as to prevent spoilage. For instance, a crate of Royal Gala apples which used to carry about 25 kg apples, is coming in 10 kg boxes this year. Although the supplies from Kashmir may improve the overall stock, there will still be a deficit of apples in the market.
Along with a reduction in supply, the rising transportation costs are causing further increases in the price of apples. A crate of apples with around 25-26 kg of Shimla apples, which used to sell at Rs 2,800 last year is now selling for Rs 3,500 in the wholesale market.
The wholesale price of apples was at about Rs 74 per kilogram (kg) in July 2023 in Azadpur Mandi, Delhi. At all India levels, the wholesale price of apples stood at Rs 102 per kg. (Wholesale prices are the prices at which farmers sell their produce in mandis).
Apple import scenario
From another perspective, India is also a major importer of apples, primarily from the US, Turkey, Italy, Chile, Iran and New Zealand. The following table shows the apples imported by India from the world during FY 2018-19 to FY 2022-23.
India’s apple imports from the world
(in ‘000 kg)
Source: Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCI&S), Kolkata
In May 2023, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) introduced an amendment in the import policy for Apples (ITC HS code 08081000). The amendment applied MIP (Minimum Import Price) of Rs 50 per Kg for all countries except Bhutan. The MIP will be applicable to apples imported from the US* as well as other countries (excluding Bhutan). It has been applied to prevent flooding of imported apples, thereby protecting apple growers in the country. (*An additional 20% duty imposed by India in 2019 on the US apples, has been removed this year).
The amendment was undertaken keeping in view the apple growers of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir who had been complaining that high apple imports were causing a low price realization. However, due to a significant decline in apple production this year, the import of apples may be higher than in previous years.