Himachal Pradesh’s wholesale fruit markets appear to be the only places where the mood is upbeat despite the coronavirus pandemic and the losses businesses have incurred due to the lockdown.
Despite a low-crop season in the apple growing belt, the wholesale fruit markets in Himachal see transactions worth crores every day.
“My two separate lots -- one of these Scarlet-II -- were sold for Rs 2,500 and Rs 3,100 per box, respectively. That is almost Rs 1000 and Rs 1500 higher than last year. My friend sold his King Rot – a new classic variety -- at Rs 4,550 a box,” Joginder Chauhan, a young apple grower from Kotkhai, said.
This is contrary to the growers’ fears about the fate of their produce due to global pandemic and the subsequent lockdown adversely hitting the markets, and forcing the buyers out of business.
Apart from Royal Delicious apples, other varieties like Spur, Scarlet- II, Red Chief, King Rot, Gala, Fuji and Granny Smith are in great demand.
Coming -up of new wholesale markets in Shimla, Solan and Parwanoo apart from local sub-markets, the growers are not required to transport the produce to big cities like Delhi, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Koltaka, Chennai or Mumbai that involve huge additional cost. They have more reasons to cheer over the wholesale selling rates, near their homes.
“Apart from a low-crop fetching us a good price, this is also backed by a key factor. There are no foreign apples anymore giving us competition. Earlier Washington apples, Chinese apples and others used to flood the markets. Due to lockdown, the foreign apples have disappeared. Thus the prices are good, and will remain stable,” says Dr Vijay Singh Thakur, former Vice-Chancellor of Dr Y S Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni (Solan).
Last year, the wholesale price of the apple was between Rs 1500 to 1800 a box. During the same period, the best of new apple varieties had fetched Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,500 per box.
The labour shortage in the apple belt, caused by the pandemic lockdown, has led to massive crisis .Till now, it was Nepali labour, which has been the backbone of the apple economy in the state, handling the harvest.
The apple economy of the state is worth Rs 4,500 crore, which tends to border Rs 5,000 crore.
The growers believe that unlike previous years, the prices are likely to remain stable. There is no chance of glut in the markets .The farmers’ families are themselves handling the produce in absence of the labour or doing it with minimal manpower
For those who are fond of fresh delicious Himachal apples, the taste is likely to be spoiled by high retail prices in the COVID-hit metropolitan cities till Kashmiri apples hit the marker later next month.
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