Shimla: The apple season in Himachal Pradesh, considered the country’s apple bowl, has opened with the fruit fetching handsome prices, bringing smiles on the faces of growers.
Trade representatives said that the high prices at the onset of season indicated a rewarding apple business ahead.
“After a delay of 10-15 days, apple harvesting has finally begun. The fruit has started reaching the markets and is fetching good prices,” said Gian Singh Chandel, chairman of Dhalli Apple Market Committee near here.
“This year, prices are almost 25 percent higher than last year at this point of time,” he added.
Chandel said early varieties such as Red June, Summer Queen and Tydeman’s Early Worcester, though inferior in quality, had reached markets in Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi.
“A 20 kg box of Tydeman’s Early Worcester is being sold for up to Rs.1,100 in Dhalli and this is a good wholesale price,” he said.
Traders said that on an average, 1,500 to 2,000 crates of apples were reaching Dhalli every day.
Other early varieties such as Red June and Summer Queen are selling berween Rs.600 and Rs.700 and Rs.300 and Rs.450 per box, they say.
The same apples are selling for Rs.80-100 per kg in the retail markets of Chandigarh and Delhi.
Horticulture Department Director Gurdev Singh said the harvesting of apples had just begun in some pockets of Shimla, Kullu and Mandi districts.
“This year, the crop is far better that the last year’s production of 275,000 tonnes. It is too early to comment on the total yield, but it’s certain that it would be normal (around 500,000 tonnes),” he said.
Ramesh Chauhan, a farmer from Kotkhai in upper Shimla, said harvesting had begun in some pockets but it would take time for the superior varieties to attain optimum size and colour.
“The best one (Royal Delicious) from the Kothgarh-Thanedar apple belt will start arriving by the middle of August,” he said.
Horticulture experts said the shelf life of early varieties of apple was lower compared to the superior ones.
The early varieties require 95 to 120 days to mature after the crop fully blooms, whereas the normal ones take 135 to 180 days.
Himachal Pradesh’s economy is dependent on horticulture, apart from hydroelectric power and tourism, with its apple industry worth about Rs.2,000 crore.
Last year, the overall apple production was just 30 percent of the bumper production of 4.46 crore boxes in 2010.
Output had fallen due to adverse weather – an extended winter and a spell of hailstorms just when the crop was maturing.
The Horticulture Department estimates that the state’s apple production this season will be around 2.5 crore boxes.
According to the 2011-12 Economic Survey, the area under apple cultivation has increased from 400 hectares in 1950-51 to 101,485 hectares in 2010-11.