Himachal Pradesh’s apple industry faces dire decline amidst transportation bottlenecks

Himachal Pradesh, known as the second-largest apple producer in India, commands a substantial market share of approximately 25% within the country’s apple industry, amounting to a revenue of Rs 5,000 Crore. Regrettably, the apple industry in Himachal Pradesh which is responsible for a significant portion of the state’s economy is facing a notable decline, with indications that the situation may further deteriorate.

 This year, the apple crop has been severely affected by adverse weather conditions, estimating the projected harvest for this year to be nearly half the yield of the previous season. This is further exacerbated by the presence of damaged roads, acting as severe bottlenecks in the transportation of apples, thus directly impacting sales and distribution.

These transportation issues are reflecting on the pricing dynamics of apples. With diminishing yield, the apple prices are on the rise. As per estimates this season’s harvest might reach a mere 1.9 crore apple boxes compared to the previous year’s 3.36 crore boxes. The lowest yield was recorded in 2018 when only 1.5 crore boxes were procured.

Apple exports are also poised for a downturn. Various factors contribute to this decline, with Nepal, an important market for Himachal apples, increasing import duties from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.25 lakh per truck. Moreover, the adoption of 24-kg universal cartons has created hurdles for potential buyers, as these cartons accommodate fewer layers of apples.

A wholesaler, Arun Kumar Shukla from Kanpur, highlighted the shift in prices: “Last year, the delicious Himachal apples were priced below Rs 1000 per box. This season, the same box fetches Rs 1700 at the Parwanoo market alone. When factoring in transportation costs and market committee fees, the cost of the apple box is projected to increase by at least Rs 2000.”

The projections by the state’s horticulture department officials indicate a staggering 50 percent decline in apple yield compared to the previous season.

These transportation-related issues are also poised to affect the import-export dynamics. The red golden apple variety cultivated in Himachal Pradesh are particularly in demand in our neighboring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh. Typically, around 100 importers from these nations frequent the state’s apple markets annually. However, this year, no importers have been observed.

Factors like scarcity of apple supply, combined with Nepal’s increased import duties and Himachal’s mandate for a 24kg universal apple box, have collectively discouraged importers, and contributed to this shift in dynamics.

It is to be noted that the import duty of Nepal has been raised to Rs 1.50 lakh from Rs 50,000 per truck last year. Moreover, the Himachal Government’s restriction to a 24 kg box doesn’t align with importer preferences for multi-layered boxes. Also, the cheaper apples from China are now flooding these markets.

While, Himachal Pradesh’s contribution to India’s overall apple production is significant, with 4 to 7 lakh metric tonnes annually. This year, the heavy monsoon rains have added to the state’s challenges, submerging many parts and disrupting normal life for its residents.

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