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India: HPMC’s concerned about low apple supply

With decrease in apple production — this year, it is half than its usual record — as a result of natural calamities, especially the hail, the state-owned Himachal Pradesh Horticulture Produce Process and Marketing Corporation (HPMC) has been hit hard with its procurements crashing to an unusual low when compared to the last one decade. The biggest worry that faces the agency — which handles procurements of processable grade of apples and also markets fruit products across the country — is getting sufficient business to pay its staff. Its outlets, mainly in the railway stations and airports, may run out of stock if it sits idle sans procurements. Against the 1.55 lakh bags of processable grade of apples procured by the agency under Marketing Intervention Scheme last year by this time, the figure is barely 2,715 this time round. In terms of weight, the procurement is 162 MT against 9,318 MT last year till August 31.

HPMC Managing Director Madan Chauhan said: “The quantity of apples prosecured this year at collection centres opened by the agency is peanuts.The processing plant at Parwanoo may remain idle if apples are not available. year, we had a record turnover of Rs 76 crore — highest ever in HPMC’s history. But this year may end up being a ‘zero year’.” The fruit processing plant of HPMC has a capacity to crush 11,000 to 12,000 MT fruits. But in reality, actual capacity utilisation is only 9,000 to 10,000 MT, as the machinery has grown old and requires upgradation. The low apple season has washed away the hopes to utilise even 20 to 25 per cent capacity of the plant. This means that the HPMC will not be able to market its products like jams and juice — it earns the loss-making HPMC most of its revenue.

The only saving grace is that the HPMC has some stock of its juices, as last year happened to be an year with bumper crop of 4.46 crore boxes — this year, it will be below 2 crore boxes. Against 1.75 crore apple boxes marketed outside the state till August 31 last year, this year, Himachal Pradesh has sent only 62.24 lakh boxes to the market. So dismal is the scenario that the state’s horticulture department officials are tight-lipped about the output — they had forecast a far higher output before the harvest began. The impact could be seen on the Shimla-Kalka National Highway, which used to be packed with apple-laden trucks moving day and night. “This year, the road is deserted,” said Balbir Singh, an apple grower from Rohru. The import of apples, especially from China, has caused a bigger problem to the growers. “The farmers could have got Rs 2,000 to 2,500 per box if foreign producers have not dumped apples in Indian markets. We are getting only Rs 1,500 per box or even less,” said Horticulture Minister Narinder Bragta.


Publication date: 9/9/2011


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