After India removed “retaliatory import duty” on US apples in September, imports of American apples have surged 40 times in three months, while traders are hopeful of regaining market share. In 2017-18, the import of US apples was a record of over 7 million boxes, which dropped to 50,000 boxes in the 2022–23 (September–August) season.

In a promotional event event in New Delhi on Tuesday, Sumit Saran, country representative of Washington Apple Commission, said: “We are hopeful to regain our market share. Apart from metros, we see a lot of sales in tier I and tier II cities. We do not promote when Indian production is in market. We wait till domestic production exhausts by January so our product can be from February.” The main sales period of US apples in India continues until July.

Saran said Washington apples had a kind of gone out of Indian market due to “retaliatory tariff” of additional 20 per cent over and above basic import duty of 50 per cent imposed in 2019 in retaliation to section 232 of US government’s higher import tax on Indian steel and aluminium.

Creating a void

Though India announced to withdraw additional duty on US apples in June, the notification came only on September 6.

Claiming that the non-presence of Washington apples created a void both for traders and consumers, Saran said that 70 per cent duty was huge for the trade to compete with other origins that were paying 50 per cent duty.

Between September 1 and November 30, 440,000 boxes (of 20 kg each) have been imported, as against only about 10,000 boxes in the year-ago period, he said. In entire 2022-23 (September-August), India had imported 50,000 boxes of apple from the US whereas prior to the additional duty levied, the annual import by India was about 5 million boxes, he added.

The US was very concerned about the fall of its apple export to India as in 2017 India had becomes its second biggest export destination for apple, globally. Even in the domestic market it had 53 per cent share in the imported apple segment. Turkey, Iran, Italy, Chile, Poland are some of the main destinations from where Indian traders import.

Total imports of apples by India dropped to 3.74 lakh tonnes (lt) in 2022-23 from 4.59 lt in 2021-22, official data show. In 2027-18, import of apple was 2.58 lt.