The delay in shipments due to the Red Sea crisis and the additional cost incurred from the surcharges imposed by the shipping lines for re-routing vessels have hit the fruit imports to Kerala, which has been witnessing a surge in the consumption of overseas fruit varieties.

Traders fear the transit delays might hit the fruit demand for the ensuing Ramadan fasting season, which is expected to begin in March.

The normal transit time of 15-20 days for the fruit imports has now gone up to 30-45 days, much to the frustration of the traders.  Kerala imports around 500 containers of fruits, mainly varieties of apples, citrus fruits, etc, in a month.

The diversion of ships via the Cape of Good Hope has forced the trade to shell out more money in the form of various surcharges imposed by shipping lines, leading to a cost increase, traders said.

C.H.Kamarudeen, Managing Director of Aeden Fruits International Pvt Ltd told businessline that with the increasing awareness of a healthy diet, fruit consumption was on the rise in Kerala. “People are aware of the quality of all kinds of imported fruits available in the market, thanks to their exposure to gulf countries”

He pointed out that the fruits mainly brought by European shipping lines, which included consignments from Italy, Poland, Turkey and Egypt to Kerala, were the most affected. The opening up of the US market has also raised fruit volumes to the Kerala market. The imposition of a surcharge to $4000 per container dealt the trade a heavy blow, which it fears could lead to a subdued demand as the end consumer has to bear the cost.

The crisis also resulted in a shortage of ships and containers, adding to the woes of the trade. The shipping lines are dropping the cargo at Mumbai port, thus imposing an additional financial burden on the trade of transporting the cargo to Kochi. Southern states are mostly affected by the crisis as fruit consumption is higher in the region compared to the Northern belt, he said.

Anwar Sadique, proprietor of Alzaim International, Malappuram, said the rates of Egypt oranges rose to $12 from $ 8 for a 15 kg box following shipping surcharges. Turkey apple prices jumped to $25 from $19 a box. “We are more concerned about the damages to the perishable commodities in view of the transit delays and the additional cost incurred by the consumers due to the increased rates of the fruits”, he said, adding that the transit time has gone to 40-45-days compared to 20 days during normal time.