Chinese apple rules fruit market roost

KATHMANDU: Thanks to cheap price, Chinese apples are having a field day in the Nepali fruit market.

According to retailers in Kalimati, cheap price and attractive package has driven up the demand for Chinese apples. "The market is now totally dependent on Chinese apples, primarily because they are available the year round," said fruit retailer Dinesh Shakya adding that apples from China are not only cheaper but also juicier and tastier than the Indian ones. The price of Chinese applese in the retail market ranges from Rs 50 to 100 per kg, while seasonal Indian apples are much costlier.

"The supply of Chinese apples is planned in such a way that the Nepal's fruit markets are always flooded with them," said wholesale fruit seller Raghabendra Singh in Kathmandu's largest fruit market, Kalimati.

Apart from it, the price of fruits like mango, pomegranate, pineapple and sugarcane have also tremendously increased. "The major reason for the price hike is due to the off-season for these fruits," said fruit dealer Shambhu Shah adding that mango per kg costs Rs 110-120, sugarcane per stalk Rs 70 and pomegranate Rs 130-140 per kg.

Although Nepal has made steady progress in fruit production over the years, it is yet to attain self-sufficiency. Nepali farmers produce apples, oranges, papayas and bananas in limited quantities. Whether it is a big supermarket or a small vendor, if a retailer does not get products from India on time, he or she would have to go out of business.

"Indian fruits still have a monopoly in the Nepalese market as they do not have to compete with imports from other countries," said Kalimati vegetable and fruit market operation officer Manoj Dhital adding that from grapes to apples and oranges to bananas, prices in Nepali wholesale and retail markets are determined by the arrival of these from India.

Until a decade ago, Nepalis consumed very little fruits. That situation has changed dramatically. According to the fruit wholesale market in Kalimati, Kathmandu valley consumes mostly Indian fruit worth Rs 10 million a day. "The upsurge of violence and anarchy along major highways has disrupted the transportation of these products," said, Dhital adding that the imports of fresh fruits have also seen a drastic decline in recent times.

"Fruit traders in particular incurred huge losses because of the perishable nature of goods," said, fruit retailer Amar Agarwal. He added that the violence and anarchy of the last few months have created a palpable sense of confusion in the market. "We are not self-reliant in vegetable and fruit production," said fruit seller Hari Krishna Giri. Dhital said, "Our output fulfills only 60 percent of the demand." He added that if there is any disruption in the supply of vegetables and fruits from India, these become unaffordable for a large number of Nepali people.

"Because of the scarcity of goods, there has been a steep rise in prices," said Kanhaiya Lal Gupta, adding that farmers in India and consumers in Nepal have to suffer because of this uncertainty. Gupta added that whenever some group calls a strike, shopkeepers get intimidated and comply. Most shops sell imported products. If they can sell more, their profit margin goes up. However, those who sell locally produced goods find themselves in a difficult situation. Moreover, dealers of perishable commodities like fruits suffer the severest impact. Since fresh fruits cannot be stored for too long, traders are forced to dump them. "We need long-term strategy to become self-reliant in fruit production and minimize the trasportation price that is added along with the price of fruits,"said, Dhital.

Prices of fruits

• Mango Rs 120

• Apple (Chocolate) Rs 120

• Apple (big) Rs 200-225

• Pomegranate Rs 130

• Papaya Rs 50

• Banana Rs 45-55 (dozen)

• Sugarcane Rs 70 per stalk

Price per kg