Shimla: With apple produce expected to be less than half of what it was last year and going by pre-harvest crop contracts being struck by farmers with traders, the fruit may remain out of the reach of many this season.
Having just come back from visiting orchard lands in Jubbal, an apple growing belt, Chaman Chauhan says, â€œunheard of contract prices are being struck by fruit growers with tradersâ€™ right at the farm gate.â€
â€œDepending upon fruit quality, contract deals are being made at anywhere between Rs 1000 to Rs 1500 for a 20 Kg box of the crop that is still on the trees and is a more than a month away from harvest,â€ said Chauhan, who owns an orchard and is also a government employee.
To this one would need to add the harvesting, packaging and transport costs and one cannot predict what price, a box will fetch in the auction market, he added.
In comparison to last yearâ€™s bumper crop of 44.5 million boxes, officials at the horticulture department have projected the yearâ€™s crop to less than 22 million boxes.
Orchard owner from Kotgarh, Ranjeet Mehta says that summer rains throughout the belt have been very beneficial for the maturing crop. â€œThe productivity is low but hopes of good market prices will most likely make up for that,â€ he added.
Another orchard owner Arvind Thakur is not very enthused for his entire crop was severely damaged by a violent hailstorm. Hail damages across the fruit growing areas have been assessed in excess of Rs 300 crores.
Horticulture minister Narinder Bragta said that the government had approached the union agriculture ministry for declaring hail damages as natural calamity and have sought relief for the farmers.
A wholesale fruit trader, CR Sharma, says, with very little good quality fruit available, off market future prices being struck for farm gate crop are very high and almost match the prices that imported apple is getting nowadays.
Apple is by far the most important fruit crop of Himachal Pradesh and is the mainstay of a rural economy in many hilly districts of the state.
Area under apple cultivation that was 400 hectares in 1950-51 has increased to 99,564 hectares in 2009-10 and constitutes 48% of the total area under fruit crops and makes up about 81% of the total fruit produced in the state.