As Himachal Pradesh steps into harvest season, the fruit basket is griming with hopes--- the first sign of recovery after deadly second Covid had hit the rural side of the state.
Though it's early in July, the two varieties of apples-- Tydeman and Red golden, are selling between Rs 500 to Rs 1300 per box. Few also sold the A-grade apples for Rs 1400 per box.
“These are low height fruits, which get marketed 10 to 15 days before the traditional varieties-- the Red Royal, delicious and new varieties of apples reach the market. Fruit this time is affected by hail and inclement weather. So, can’t predict how the market will behave, in favour or against when the boxes arrive at the wholesale markets,” says Anurag Chauhan, a marketing agent at Dhalli (Shimla) wholesale market.
But, right now the demand from the big buyers is for plums, apricots, peaches, and pears. The growers have made good returns. The Cherry has been a big hit in the Covid time due to its high nutritive values to boost immunity.
“Initially, the plum paid good returns selling at Rs 150 to 200 per kg but after sudden arrivals in a rush, the prices dropped even to Rs 70 -80 kg. The same was the case with apricots. Cherry has also done well this year due to new varieties. It has been a fairly good time for stone fruits despite the Covid crisis,” says Deepak Singha, a young progressive orchardist at Kotgarh.
Singha has been advising the growers not to rush for the apples to the markets before the crop reaches its maturity level. There is a need for a staggered movement to get better proceeds and selling of good quality fruits for the future stability of the markets.
An unprecedented hail storm last month has caused an unexpected loss to the orchardists in Jubbal-Kotkhai, Rohru, Narkanda, Kumersein, Rampur, and Baghi areas, which comprises almost 40 to 42 percent of the total apple producing areas.
The temperature fluctuations during the past 15 days, and also sudden rise in the day’s temperature/heat have also proved to be unfavorable to the fruits.
“There is a problem in the size of the fruit and also color. The apples also have hail marks. This will play an adverse impact on the wholesale price once the apple boxes start arriving in the market” Anurag Chauhan feels.
Last year, the apple growers got quite a high return as the apple boxes of 20 kg and 24 kg were sold between Rs 2,000 to 3,000. Some progressive growers known for best orchard managements sold the produce at Rs 3200 to 3400 per box.
The peach growers in the Rajgarh area of Sirmaur have also seen a big demand in the markets outside the state.
This year the crop was estimated to be quite bumper but the weather has played a spoilsport. Yet, not all hopes lost to make some gains as many, in the apple –belt still hasn't found closure to the Covid deaths in the families.