India: High quality apple crop expected in Himachal Pradesh
The outlook for apple growers in Himachal Pradesh is strong as harvesting begins in orchards across the northern Indian state. President of the Apple Growers’ Association of India, Ravinder Chauhan, speaks with www.freshfruitportal.com about this year's expectations and why the sector is wholly focused on the domestic market.
"So far all the signs are that production in Himachal Pradesh is looking very good for this season with excellent size, quality and coloring," he says.
"From what I’ve gathered from farmers, the production levels all over the state will be fairly normal with possibly a little more volume that what we are used to."
Harvesting has already started and is due to continue over the next three weeks while the marketing campaign is due to last until early fall.
Chauhan forecasts approximately 37 million 22-kilogram-equivalent (48.5 pounds) boxes will be supplied to the domestic market, mainly in Himachal Pradesh, with smaller volumes distributed to markets in Delhi, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
"The weather conditions have been good to the farmers this year and that is partly the reason behind such a bumper crop of apples," Chauhan added.
"Everyone in the sector is very happy with the progress we are making in producing good quality apples for the domestic markets in the country, and Himachal Pradesh certainly has a good reputation for apple growing."
One drawback in the state is the fact that producers are not able to compete on a global scale because of quality issues and lack of financial resources to enter export markets.
"I wish we could, but it seems a difficult thing for us to make the jump into supplying markets abroad," Chauhan said.
"We just do not have the quality that export markets demand and here farmers want to get the best prices they can on the domestic market instead.
"We have the potential to go overseas, but it is very difficult to compete with much richer countries and setups that can provide the sort of quality apples expected in export markets. Maybe one day this will change, but for now we concentrate on supplying Indians with our great apples from Himachal Pradesh."
History of apple production in Himachal Pradesh
The commercial cultivation of apples in Himachal Pradesh dates back to 1918 when popular varieties were first introduced in the Shimla district by Satyananda Stokes, an American who settled in India.
The region is known as the 'apple state of India' as the area under cultivation has steadily increased over the years from an estimated 400 hectares in the early 1950s to more than 100,000 hectares today, according to Himachal Pradesh State Government statistics.
During last year’s harvesting period, the state government announced improvements to the Apple Rejuvenation Project, an initiative designed to replace and restore older apple orchards and introduce higher yielding varieties.
Around 1.4% of Himachal Pradesh’s apple production area is now part of the scheme with a long-term view of raising productivity.