Shimla, Aug 28 (IANS) Even as apple harvest peaks in Himachal Pradesh, the fruit's price has taken a tumble across Indian markets due to heavy monsoons in some regions and lack of demand from others.
Sellers say apple prices have dipped to a third of what they were a month ago in the market. There is little demand from western and southern India, resulting in a glut in the markets of northern India and a slump in prices, say the farmers.
The price of a 22 kg box of apples fetched an all-time high rate of Rs.1,200 in July, but since then the drop in prices has been steady despite a low yield this year.
'Few buyers are arriving in the Delhi market - the country's largest distribution centre. There are virtually no buyers from flood-prone Gujarat, Rajasthan and southern India,' said Lekh Raj Chauhan, president of the Himachal Apple Growers' Association.
'Due to fewer arrival of buyers in Delhi and other markets, the prices have taken a hit,' Chauhan told IANS here.
The prices over the weekend in Shimla and other state wholesale markets have varied between Rs.200 and Rs.550 per box for the past few days.
The prices are only marginally higher in New Delhi, Chandigarh and other cities of northern India.
After four consecutive years of bumper crops, apple production is poor this time. Earlier this year, some 80 percent of the standing crop on trees was damaged by hailstorms, affecting the fruit's market value.
Apple harvest starts late July and goes on till early October when the orchards located in the highest regions of the state pick their fruit.
'As one moves higher, the taste and quality of the fruit improves but the market doesn't respond to this. Even quality often doesn't get its due price,' rued another farmer.
What worries farmers is that there is very little infrastructure in the state, such as cold storage centres, where the crop can be kept fresh and marketed according to demand in the market.
Along with neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh produces almost the entire apples sold in the country.