Apple harvesting has begun in Himachal Pradesh and will start in a month in Kashmir. The desperate apple trade is seeking government procurement under the market intervention scheme (MIS).
Ravinder Chauhan, president, All India Apple Growers' Association, said the government should intervene to help growers and consumers as prices of good quality apple are likely to fall 15% in August compared to last year.
Naresh Sharma, chairman of the Shimla and Kinnaur Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee, said the Himachal Pradesh’s output was likely to be 33% less than last year at 2.5 crore boxes of 25 kg each. Traders are staying away from the state because they would be quarantined for a week. Only 40% of the buyers have turned up till now, he said.
Dhruva Aggarwal, director of Dev Bhumi Cold Chain, said if traders are not able to visit, prices will slide. Traders, exporters or their representatives from across the country spend some time in the state to procure apples.
In the beginning of the harvest, average prices of apple was about Rs 90 a kg in the Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi and it is expected to go down to Rs 60 when supply peaks in August, said Jimmy Khailani, treasurer of the Shimla Apple Merchants Association in the Azadpur mandi.
Harish Chauhan, president of the Himachal Pradesh Fruit, Vegetables and Flowers Growers Association, said traders were delaying payments of an estimated Rs 500 crore since last year, citing the pandemic. “We have written to the government to intervene and let a central agency like Nafed procure at MIS rate, which will give benchmark prices and at least cover our cost of production,” he said.
A Nafed official said the Jammu and Kashmir administration had urged the government to make timely procurement of apples under MIS.
Shortage of over 35% to 40% of labour coming from Nepal is also likely to impact small orchards, delaying the plucking and leading to crop damage, added Chauhan. Besides, higher diesel rates had made transportation more costly, traders said.
Metharam Kriplani, president of Azadpur Chamber of Fruits and Vegetables Association, said there was a lot of price and demand uncertainty because of the pandemic, though lower output and festive demand may help prices recover.
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