Lack of storage facility limits apple export potential

KATHMANDU, August 15

Though Nepal does produce substantial amount of apples, the domestic market is still flooded with the apples that are imported from various countries. And the reason behind this is that the country lacks proper cold storage facilities.

There is high demand for Nepali apples in the market, but they are supplied in the market only during the harvest season, normally from mid-September to December, said a fruit vendor in Balkhu Vegetable and Fruits Market. “Normally, between February and mid-September, we cannot find Nepali apples in the market.”

The apples that are available in the Nepali market are imported from countries like US, China and New Zealand. However, supply from India dominates local market from February to mid-September.

Supply of one-and-a-half months beyond the harvest season has become possible due to efforts of local farmers of Mustang and Jumla, who have set up small scale cold storage units to preserve their products. Mustang and Jumla are the largest suppliers of Nepali apples in the market. Prior to the cold storage facility, Mustang farmers used to make apple brandy (liquor) from the fruit rather than letting it rot.

As per the price lists collected by The Himalayan Times from various fruit vendors in the Capital, Jumla apples cost Rs 70 to Rs 80 per kg during season in the retail market of Kathmandu, whereas Mustang apples can cost as high as Rs 120 to Rs 200 per kg. In the retail market, apples imported from the United States cost Rs 300 per kg and Kashmiri apples (from India) cost around Rs 200 per kg.

Domestic market flooded with imports from various countries

The country’s annual import of apples stood at 56,447 tonnes, valued at Rs 1.92 billion in fiscal 2013-14, according to the Trade and Export Promotion Centre. The country’s annual production of apples, meanwhile, stood at 35,920 tonnes in the same fiscal, according to the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD).

“Apples are being cultivated in 48 districts, but the five districts — Jumla, Humla, Mugu, Dolpa and Kalikot — contribute 41.2 per cent of the total production.”

Likewise, the production from Mustang and Manang stood at 4,172 tonnes or 11.61 per cent of the total production, in fiscal 2013-14.

“MoAD has been supporting the farmers to set up cold storage units,” according to Uday Chandra Thakur, spokesperson for MoAD.

“If the country aims to switch its import-based consumption to domestic production, the government needs to lend support for high capacity cold storage and transport facility to lure farmers to apple farming.”