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Tuesday, Apr 12, 2005

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Washington apples sweeten South palate

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Ms Rebecca Baerveldt, Deputy Export Director, Washington Apple Commission, and Mr Sumit Saran, India Representative, at a press conference in Chennai on Monday. — Bijoy Ghosh

Chennai , April 11

IMPORTED apples have gained a firm foothold in the markets here - not just in the metropolises but also in the smaller towns.

In line with this trend, Washington Apple Commission, a US-based agency that promotes apple exports from the orchards of Washington State, will push Washington Apple in these smaller towns. Washington Apple, a common logo for apples of that State, accounts for about 30 per cent of the apples imported into India.

Of particular interest are the markets in the South which are the leading importing and consuming centres in India unlike a few years back when imports were largely by Mumbai-based traders who sold the fruits up North.

Today Tamil Nadu, mostly Chennai, is among the largest importers and more than 70 per cent of the fruits are sold in the smaller cities and towns.

According to Mr Sumit Saran, India Representative, Washington Apple Commission, nearly five lakh boxes, about 18 kg each, are imported into India. This is a five-fold growth in the last two years. This range has gained a firm foothold in the larger cities and traders here have mentioned that the markets are widening.

They will now be looking at promoting the brand in smaller cities such as Coimbatore, Madurai and Thanjavur in the South and in Indore, Jullundhar in the North.

So why is the South dominating?

According to Mr Saran, greater awareness and purchasing power - thanks to spread of information technology - a more mature retail chain and the exposure to prime quality apples are the driving features. They did not always get the premium quality of the domestically grown varieties.

With most of the growing areas in the far north, the markets there absorbed the best and only the rest found their way down south.

A handful of importers in Chennai each sold about 2,000 boxes of apples a day and more than 70 per cent of these were being sold outside Chennai in the smaller towns.

Apart from Washington Apple, nearly an equal quantity was being brought in from Australia and New Zealand, and a lesser quantity from China and South Africa.

What is the Washington Apple Commission doing about pushing its range?

Make sure that when a buyer picks up an apple it is from the orchards of Washington State, says Ms Rebecca Baerveldt, Deputy Export Director, Washington Apple Commission.

People go to the market to buy fruits - not apples particularly.

If they add apples to the basket it is only on impulse and the Commission is doing everything to "push that impulse."

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