Updated February 1st, 2024 at 07:15 IST
‘Interim budget’, India’s 3 apple-producing hubs seek revival
New-age technologies and taxation measures can ensure revival of India’s apple produce.
- 4 min read
Apple of an eye: Over 10 lakh families from the apple-growing belt of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand, have been at the receiving end of weather vagaries and competition from global apple supplies into the country's fruit mandis. With the help of new-age technologies and taxation measures, can central policy initiatives ensure the revival of India’s domestic apple produce? Republic Business takes a deep dive.
Market intervention scheme
The Government of India must decide on a minimum rate for apple sales, with the help of the much-needed Market Intervention Scheme (MIS), Harish Chauhan, President, Himachal Pradesh Vegetable and Fruit Growers Association told Republic Business. As per Chauhan, MIS is presently applicable on 16 crops including apples, adding that apple-growing farmers. “In Himachal Pradesh, C-grade apples at government-owned collection centres fetch Rs 12 per kilogramme. In Kashmir valley, where MIS was introduced in 2019 during COVID-19, rates for A-grade apple was fixed at Rs 60 per kg, B-grade at Rs 44 and C-grade Rs 24 per kg through National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED),” says Chauhan.
Chauhan, who is the convenor of Hill States Horticulture Forum, an umbrella body of apple growers from Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand, told Republic Business that the demand of this trade lobby has been Rs 80 per kg for A-grade, Rs 60 for B-grade and Rs 30 for C-grade apples under MIS. “It becomes imminent to have fixed rates for all the three- grades of apple. The revised MIS rates for apple should be on lines of what farmers across the country with the help of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for 23 different yields such as pulses,” says Chauhan.
Curbing ‘illegal’ apple trade
Import of apples from as many as 44 countries is being witnessed in the country's fruit markets at present. Chauhan says the apple growers of hill states have been demanding 100 per cent import duty on apple supplies. “The government must stop illegal apple trade through South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) countries. This includes a ban on cheap apples coming into India from Iran via Afghanistan,” Chauhan said. He said in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan of ‘vocal for local’, there is an imminent need to keep a check on apple supplies from other countries.
Import slash on US apples
The fruit growers of Himachal Pradesh, J&K and Uttarakhand are in favour of a “healthy competition” they have faced from imported apples, especially supplies of “Washington apple”, says Chauhan. However, lowering of import duty on Washington apple supplies, from 70 per cent last year to 50 per cent now, has pinched the local growers, he says.
“Till 2019 import duty on the US apples in India was 70 per cent. The duty was slashed to 50 per cent last year. This has come as a shock to the hill state local apple growers,” says Chauhan. Of the 10 lakh growers’ families in the three hill states, three lakh horticulturists are based in Himachal Pradesh, while Kashmir is home to 6.50 lakh apple-growing families, and Uttarakhand has 50,000 such apply-dependent families, Chauhan added.
Additional budgetary allocations
The government must put into place separate funding for marketing of apples domestically and globally, Bashir Ahmad Basheer, Chairman of the All Kashmir Fruit Growers Dealers Union told Republic Business. Basheer said there must be an additional budgetary allocation for the three hill regions of Himachal, J&K and Uttarakhand in order to provide a boost to Controlled Atmosphere (CA) cold stores and processing units.
“We urge the government for a provision of allotment of separate funds for utilisation, especially during the natural calamities,” said Basheer. As per Basheer, there must be a consideration of establishment of separate horticulture estates on the pattern of industrial estates. Besides, a subsidy on insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, cardboard and cartons has also been a regular demand of growers.
An additional budget provision for availability of high-density plant material provided free of cost to growers may be considered so that orchards are rejuvenated, says Basheer. “At present 18 per cent GST is charged on insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, fertilisers and cardboard materials resulting in higher production cost of fresh fruit. It is requested that the rate of GST on these items be reduced to the maximum possible limit,” he said.
Published January 11th, 2024 at 15:17 IST