The most awaited apple season in the hill State of Himachal Pradesh has begun with the first lot of around 10 lakh cartons reaching various markets in the country.
The State, despite undergoing an encroachment removal drive ordered by the High Court, is expecting to pack around 4 crore boxes of 20 kg of apples each. Though a majority of business is carried out in the private sector, the government has also opened procurement centres. “We will open around 300 centres in apple producing areas under the market intervention scheme and as per the demand of farmers,” said an official spokesman on Sunday. More than 10 per cent of such centres have already started functioning and the farmers are bringing their produce there, he says.With an expected production of around 8 lakh tonnes, about a million boxes or about 2,000 trucks of some early varieties of fruit like Red June and Tydeman’s have already been transported out of the State. The fruit from Himachal has already reached the markets of Delhi, Punjab, Gujarat, Rajasthan and even down South in Bengaluru and Chennai.
Last year’s production remained less than 3 crore boxes or 6 lakh tonnes.Important crop
Apple is the most important fruit crop or cash crop of the hill State and constitutes about 49 per cent of the total area under fruit crops — about 85 per cent of the total fruit production, says the latest Economic Survey of the State. The apple fruit, having an economy of around Rs. 3,500 crore, is grown mainly in the districts of Shimla, Kinnaur, Kullu, Mandi, Chamba and some parts of Sirmaur and Lahaul-Spiti. The average production of apple is around 5 lakh tonnes or 2.5 crore boxes every year but the maximum production was recorded in the year 2010-11 when it crossed 9 lakh tonnes or almost touched 5 crore boxes.
Due to inclement weather, this year the initial supply from the orchards is slow and only around 20,000 boxes are being transported every day. The fruit has not attained the full size and lacks colour, said majority wholesalers.
The season matures around second week of August and is at its peak by the end of this month when the fruit starts coming from the middle and upper reaches of the State, from beyond the hills of 5,000 feet and above. The real juicy varieties like Royal Delicious, Red Gold, Red Chief and Oregon Spur and later Golden Delicious would start coming now, giving a tough challenge to the Chinese Gala and Washington apples from the U.S.Per-hectare production
But the per-hectare production in Himachal Pradesh is much less than China and other countries.
The State gets around 8 to 10 tonnes of apples per hectare against 35 to 40 tonnes of fruit in the advanced countries. The transportation and marketing aspects are the main problems faced by the apple growers in Himachal.