Kis Ki Galti Hai?
Within Kashmir, Across India
Rich Buyers Want Imported Apples In OFF-SEASON
Shift In Consumer Preference Has Hit Our Farmers Hard
Across India, affluent families now prefer to buy imported apples during off-season. Apples from Kashmir are purchased by elite buyers only during the apple harvest season, when the fresh fruit is supplied across India.
Elite buyers complain that during off-season when the supply comes from Controlled Atmosphere (CA) Stores, domestic apple “aaloo ban jaata hai”. Their charge is that when the apple is supplied from CA stores, the Kashmiri or Himachal apples lose crunchiness and flavour.
This is the reason why – once the harvest season in Kashmir is over – the apples in the homes of rich Indians are all from foreign lands. Buyer preference indicates that the market remains robust for the imported apples during the entire off-season supply. The consistent feedback of the buyers is that during the off-season months, imported apples are crisper and juicier.
SAME PATTERN IN KASHMIR MARKET
Rich families are paying Rs 300 to Rs 400 a kg for imported apples. They don’t mind the high price. What they are seeking is the right kind of apple they want to consume.
The same preference is being observed even in the Kashmir market. During the off-season months, some Kashmiri elites prefer to buy imported apples. This is despite the fact that during off-season, prices of international varieties of apples are more than double the price of Indian varieties.
Why has this trend emerged? Why are our Kashmiri varieties not selling during this period? Why is it that during off-season supply, Fuji apples from Japan, Royal Gala from New Zealand, the green Granny Smith from Washington, or apples from Iran and China remain crunchy and juicy, but apples from Kashmir don’t?
There is no point in blaming the buyers here. During the harvest season, Indians prefers Kashmiri and Himachal apples. Despite being attractive, imported apples don’t appeal to Indian taste buds as much as the local varieties. This is the feedback from retailers across the country.
It is well-known and also acknowledged that the apples from Kashmir are most delicious and juicy. But during off-season, even elite Kashmiris prefer imported apples. The fall in quality during storage makes imported apples score higher.
So we have now come to our point where our Kashmiri apple farmers have a negligible share in the off-season apple market for elite consumption.
WILL ANYONE BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE?
Will this make the top brass of the Horticulture Department and the power figures of the UT Administration sit up and take note? Will anyone be held accountable within Jammu and Kashmir or in the Union Agriculture Ministry on this question? Why is it that crunchy and fresh imported apples are reaching the homes of affluent families all over India, but our own home-grown apples from CA stores off-season apples are not being preferred?
For over a decade, complaints regarding Kashmiri and Himachal off-season apples have been pouring in from elite Indian families. The complaints are that in off-season, apples that are supplied from cold storages lack crunchiness and even taste is impacted. The freshness and high quality that elite consumers prefer is compromised in off-season. The imported apples fulfilled this need. But this shift in consumer preference has hurt our own farmers hard.
IS THE FARMER TO BE BLAMED?
Is there any lack on the part of the farmer that Kashmiri apples lose crunchiness and flavour after being sold in Controlled Atmosphere stores? Of course not. The farmer supplies the same apples which hotly sell during the harvest season as Brand Kashmir. The apple suffers in quality later because the entire value chain from farm to fork is not protected.
Most fruits are of a highly perishable nature. They should be stored in controlled atmosphere conditions right from harvest stage to transportation to storage to distributor to retail outlet. The high technology that is required to keep the apples sparkling and fresh from farm to fork do not seem to be available to the domestic supply.
Even in Controlled Atmosphere (CA) Stores, it seems that the ideal conditions are not available. Perhaps the CA Stores in India do not enjoy the same technological support that is available to imported apples. As a result, the off-season local apple supply cannot match the imported apples in quality and crunchiness.
The situation is detrimental for Kashmiri farmers, but surely it cannot be allowed to continue in this way. What is the solution? What is the way forward?
Kashmir Central spoke to the men who have significant positions in the horticulture sector in Kashmir. Their observations provide a sharp insight into what ails the market, and what is the way forward.