Fruits import surges as country fails to fully tap its potential

  • Fruits worth Rs 5.57bn imported in 11 months of this fiscal against Rs 3.89bn last fiscal

Kathmandu, July 7

Fruits that could be grown within the country were imported from as many as seven countries, indicating Nepal’s inability to tap its potential to produce high value fruits.

The country has been importing fresh fruits from India, China, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom, among others. The domestic market is flooded with fruits imported from various countries, while the country is largely reliant on neighbouring India and China to meet the domestic demand.

According to the Department of Customs, the country has imported fresh fruits worth Rs 5.57 billion in the first 11 months of this fiscal. Import of fruits has surged substantially as compared to the annual import of fiscal 2014-15, which stood at Rs 3.89 billion.

The country imports various kinds of fruits like apples, bananas, pineapples, figs, guavas, mangoes, oranges, grapes, and kiwi, among others. Apple is the major import among fresh fruits. The country imported 58,278 tonnes of apples worth Rs 3.27 billion in the first 11 months of this fiscal. The country imports apples from China, India, New Zealand and the United States, with India and China being the major source countries. The country imported apples worth Rs 2.21 billion from China and Rs 1.03 billion from India. The country imported apples worth Rs 21.44 million from the US and Rs 11.5 million from New Zealand.

Similarly, the country imported 16,388 tonnes of grapes worth Rs 881.85 million from India in the review period. The country had imported grapes worth Rs 674.72 million last fiscal.

Import of oranges stood at Rs 786.09 million in the first 11 months — an increase of 43 per cent when compared with the annual import of the fruit last fiscal. The country has been importing oranges from Thailand and India.

Banana is another major fruit item that the country has been reliant on with the southern neighbour to meet the country’s demand. The country imported bananas worth Rs 262.43 million in the first 11 months.

Import of a majority of fruits in the 11 months of this fiscal has exceeded the annual import in the previous fiscal in terms of value and quantity. Import of apples increased significantly in this fiscal. While altogether Rs 1.97 billion worth of apples were imported in all of last fiscal, its import in the first 11 months has already reached Rs 3.27 billion.

The import of fruits has been increasing even as fruit production in the country is also on the rise. According to the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD), production of fruits is projected to rise by 10 per cent to 1.1 million tonnes this fiscal.

The fact that apple is a major import commodity among fruits shows the country does not have enough potential to cater to the local demand. The country’s annual production of apples stood at 35,920 tonnes last fiscal, according to MoAD.

Apples are cultivated in 48 districts, but five districts — Jumla, Humla, Mugu, Dolpa and Kalikot — contribute 41.2 per cent of the total production. Moreover, Nepali apples are available in the market only during the harvest season, which falls between mid-September to December, due to lack of proper storage facilities.

“It has become possible to supply apples for one-and-a-half months beyond the harvest season due to efforts of local farmers of Mustang and Jumla, who have set up small scale cold storage units to preserve their products,” said Yogendra Kumar Karki, spokesperson for MoAD.