Companies engaged in apple trading and in marketing of branded apples are preparing for a harder time, due to tepid arrivals in this season, after a record crop in 2015-16.
Output this year — harvesting has just commenced and closes in end-October/November — is estimated to fall significantly. The reasons are public disorder in Jammu & Kashmir, the largest producing state, beside crop damage in Himachal Pradesh.
The agricultural division of Mahindra & Mahindra, which sells branded apples, plans to import more. “We have many sourcing locations overseas,” said Ashok Sharma, chief executive officer of the division.
Apple is the major horticultural crop of both Himachal and J&K.
Adani Agrifresh, with an 80 per cent share in Himachal's organised apple market, has been pulling all resources to procure the targeted 25,000 tonnes. Sources in the company say damage to the crop in the state has been colossal in the lower and middle elevations; they are concentrating on higher elevations. Prices have shot up due to supply constraints.
Appy Fizz, a Parle-promoted drink, made from apple extract, might not find it as hard — they need culled apples and that was available in the aftermath of hailstorms. The food processing sector thrives on crop residue and might not be so affected, said a government official.
Prakash Thakur, vice-chairman of Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Produce, Marketing and Procurement Corporation, said: “A higher average mean temperature this season has affected yield and hailstorms in April and May aggravated the crop loss. The annual production can touch up to five crore (50 million) boxes (20 kg each) or 100,000 tonnes in a good year. It would remain in the range of 15 mn boxes this year.”
The crop in J&K is half the expected size, says officials in the horticulture department there. As a result, a 20-kg box trading at Rs 1,200-Rs 1,400 at the farm gate last year at this time is now available at Rs 1,800-2,000. “Prices might ascend in the coming weeks,” said Thakur.
Imports might, hence, rise significantly. It is normally about 20 mn boxes with a good domestic crop. We import mainly from America and China.