For the food marketers, “times could never be better than now in India” as Indians are changing their food consumption pattern powered by growing income levels and increasing awareness about healthy living, according to Mr Keith Sunderlal, Indian Representative of Washington Apple Commission (WAC).

He said India accounted for export of about 40,000 tonnes of Washington Apples during the 2009-10 crop year (Sep-Aug) and the market has been witnessing a 15-20 per cent growth year on year.

Despite the domestic production of apples of around 1.5 million tonnes and the import of 40,000 tonnes of Washington apples, the gap between the demand and supply may never be bridged.

Answering a question at a news conference here (on the sidelines of a Fresh Produce Retail Training Programme to the retailers in merchandising and handling) on how Washington apples were different from popular Indian varieties such as Shimla or Kashmir apples, Mr Sunderlal said: “Off the tree, the apples would be similar –. the difference comes in on how they are handled after harvest.”

The sorting process was such that once a retailer opened a box of Washington apples, he would find that the entire lot looked the same, which was always lacking in Indian markets.” This problem was not restricted to apples alone but to any fresh agricultural produce in India. The other difference was due to the cold chain management that ensured freshness and life” of the imported apples. The shelf life of apples upon arrival, if refrigerated, would be about 4-6 weeks; if not, depending on season, the shelf life would be at least two weeks once out of containers.

Markets for apples

He said while Mexico and Canada are the top two markets for Washington apples – importing about 18-20 million tonnes of apples together – in the Asian region, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India and Indonesia are some of the biggest markets for US apples. He put the domestic production of apples in India at 1.5 million tonnes and the country could consume “two or three times what India produces” but this could never be met by exports as there are not so many apples to be exported to India.

Mr Sunderlal said Indians are changing their food consumption pattern due to higher income, increasing awareness and travel abroad. Though the share of health reasons driving consumption could be small, it is still significant at 50-75 million people. This demand growth was not only because the per capita consumption was growing, but the number of people who eat apples was also growing. This growth was seen not only in bigger towns but in tier II and III cities as well.

He said the South was an important market for WAC as it consumed about 50 per cent of the apples imported to India.

While the retail cost could vary depending on season, it was sold at counters for Rs 120-140/kg. Interestingly, the South accounts for a larger share of pears imported from the US.


On the wax-coating of apples imported from the US, he said, “basically we do it because we need to do it to maintain the freshness, the juiciness and nutrient value of the apple and it is a protective coating”. The wax could be washed away before consumption. Indian apples exported to Bangladesh are also wax-coated and the Government of India offers a subsidy for wax-coating apples and it was legitimate to do so, he added.

Mr John Baker, Chief Executive, Produce Marketing — Australia, conducted the training programme, sponsored by the Washington State Department of Agriculture along with WAC, in Coimbatore. Other cities like Kochi, Delhi, Ludhiana and Jaipur would have similar programmes.

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