Now that India is opening up numerous areas of the country, imported fresh produce has a chance to reach the Indian consumer once again. Although some parts of India are still completely locked down, and the busiest fruit markets can be completely deserted, shipments of apples, kiwis and cherries are reaching the Indian ports.
On a special chartered flight, Saurabh Tanwar, CEO of Fruitways Chile, was able to make it back home to India recently. He took the chance to see how the local fruit markets are doing, as his shipments from Chile are coming in: “India is currently in lockdown phase of 5.0 or otherwise called unlock 5.0 -1, in which the government is allowing us to open our shops and fruit markets. However malls, clubs, bars and all public gatherings remain closed. Our government had divided the country in different zones, being red, yellow and green. The red zone still remains totally closed, but in the green zones we can see businesses opening again. When walking on the fruit markets, you can see people social distancing and sanitizing their hands every hour, I’ve seen this personally. People avoid each other unless it is absolutely necessary. The entire procurement process is now done via mobile by calls and Whatsapp. Delhi Azadpur fruit market, which is the biggest wholesale market in Asia, used to have rush hour all days in the week. Now at times it can be found empty with no consumer in sight, due to lack of labor.”
Although some fruit vendors have once again opened their shops, Tanwar feels most large companies will not be making huge profits this year. However the demand for oranges from Egypt is still exceptionally high, he says. “If I would say the fruit business in India is booming again, I’d be lying. A lot of big importers are trying to minimize their losses at best. This year was not good at all for business. Apples, kiwi and other fresh produce products are slowly moving in sales, except for one product. The Egyptian Valencia oranges are incredibly popular and although their season has ended and supply is low, the demand is still quite high. The apple is one of the principal fruits in the market, but it is struggling in terms of sales in India. This isn’t just due to Covid-19, but there is a large stock of domestic apples available in the market. The Indian farmers are playing a big role to feed the Indian consumer. Therefore the government is taking initiative and has advised all the fruit market vendors to support their local farmers in direct purchases of fresh produce.”
While in India, Tanwar is able to see his first shipments arrive first-hand. Although the situation is challenging, he’s positive on the quality of the Chilean produce. “At this time, India is importing cherries from Turkey and at a later stage will import them from Chile. However this all depends on the Covid-19 situation. Up until now, the shipments of apples and kiwi from Chile were less, as it was impossible to judge the situation by the time the produce would arrive in India. Recently things started to move a bit faster. Our Chilean apple gala shipments started arriving in the Mumbai JNPT port. During the past few months we’ve managed to build even stronger relationships with our clients, and compared to the Polish apples, these Chilean apples have performed well. We understand the fruit market is slow, and looking at the current situation Fruitways SPA has given discount on our sales invoice. As an Indian director I understand the market situation and needs very well. This might be another reason Indian importers prefer to build a relation with Fruitways rather than look to other foreign companies.”
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