India: Apple imports could fall by 50% this year - FreshFruitPortal.com

India's apple imports could fall by 50% this year amid pandemic - IG International

The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to significantly affect India's import volumes of fruits like apples this year, according to a leading importer.

Tarun Arora of IG International explained that the outbreak and subsequent lockdowns in countries around the world including India had resulted in uncertainty for the months ahead in terms of trade.

"The forecasts cannot work during these times. For kiwifruit is too early to say as the season is yet to start from the Southern Hemisphere and it's too early to make a prediction as India is a late kiwifruit market," he told FreshFruitPortal.com.

"On apples it has had a big impact. We believe the volume for imported apple coming into India could shrink by 50% year-on-year."

His comments come as the Southern Hemisphere apple and kiwifruit seasons get underway. India is a major importer of both fruits from Chile and New Zealand. 

In addition, Arora added that logistics has been a key challenge in the country over recent weeks.

"There are no drivers for trucks, no staff to work at cold storages," he said. "The fear of catching the virus along with stern measures taken by the government to keep people at home are working."

On March 24 the Indian Government implemented a strict nationwide three-week lockdown, prohibiting citizens to leave their homes to socialize or work, except those working in essential services.

"Definitely such measures are not easy and it has a big impact on both businesses and the economy," Arora said.

Unlike many developed markets, India is largely dependent on wholesale markets rather than retail channels for fruit and vegetable sales. With wholesale markets shut the supply chain is greatly impacted.

The situation has opened up many new channels but only for those who have an investment in cold storages and logistics are able to cater to these channels, Arora explained.

Asked how the situation in the country may develop over the next few weeks, Arora said all will depend on the number of new Covid-19 cases and if the lockdown is extended from April 14.

"Extension of this existing lockdown could have a serious effect on the economy and can impact the fresh produce industry," he said.