Ap­ple prices drop

Business Bhutan - - Business - Kr­ishna Ghal­ley from Phuentshol­ing

Ap­ple prices have dropped from Nu 600 per box from Nu 1,500 last year.

This is for the best qual­ity ap­ples. The cur­rent price for lower qual­ity ap­ples re­main Nu 300 com­pared to Nu 600 last year.

Two months have passed since the start of the ap­ple ex­port sea­son but the prices are yet to pick up.

Bumper har­vests in the In­dian states of Hi­machal Pradesh and Jammu and Kash­mir have led to lower de­mand for Bhutanese pro­duce this year. Also stop­page of ex­port to Bangladesh is also an­other rea­son for the loss of mar­ket. Ear­lier, Bhutanese ap­ples were ex­ported to Bangladesh but prob­lems re­lated to Goods and Ser­vices Tax (GST) have hin­dered trade with Bangladesh, ac­cord­ing to ex­porters. Now, Bhutanese ap­ples are supplied only to the In­dian states of As­sam, West Ben­gal and Bi­har.

Ex­porters also said that the qual­ity of prod­uct pack­ag­ing ham­pers Bhutan’s ex­ports while In­dian prod­ucts are well pack­aged and at­tract cus­tomers.

“Though Bhutanese ap­ples taste bet­ter, it is poorly graded and pack­aged be­cause of which we are los­ing mar­ket to In­dian prod­ucts,” said Pro­pri­etor of Druk Phuen­sum Ex­port Nim Tsh­er­ing. He said that Bhutanese ex­porters this year is go­ing through a crit­i­cal phase.

Un­like man­darin, which is packed af­ter reach­ing Phuentshol­ing de­pot, ap­ples come di­rectly packed from the farms. Farm­ers include dam­aged ap­ples while pack­ing.

“It has im­pacted mar­ket scope oth­er­wise Bhutanese ap­ples are of the best qual­ity,” said Ashok Gupta, a trader. He also said that if the Bhutanese farm­ers main­tain qual­ity, the chances are higher for their pro­duce to be­come pop­u­lar world­wide.

The re­cent flood in the states of As­sam, Bi­har and West Ben­gal has also led to the de­cline in ap­ple de­mand. “When peo­ple are con­cerned about lives and fam­ily, no one cares for ap­ples; it is sec­ondary. This also has caused de­cline in prices,” said Pradip Biswas, an In­dian im­porter.

Ac­cord­ing to ex­porters, prices are de­ter­mined by de­mand from In­dian cus­tomers who have choices. When­ever cheaper In­dian prod­ucts flood the mar­ket, the cus­tomers opt for the­ses. The ex­porters pay the sup­pli­ers in cash whereas they re­ceive pay­ments for ex­port only at the end.

“There is lit­tle profit from ap­ple ex­port but we do not want to lose our cus­tomers,” said pro­pri­etor of Kuenchab Ex­port, Nam­gay Tsh­er­ing.

Packed ap­ples are stocked for days in the de­pots and they of­ten spoil. Ex­porters have been sug­gest­ing that sup­pli­ers halt busi­ness till prices pick up.

A sup­plier, Pas­sang, from Paro said that he has faced a loss of Nu 500,000 this year. He has been in the busi­ness for more than 20 years now.

“The price I pay to the farm­ers some­times ex­ceeds the price I get from ex­porters. This year has been one of the worst for ap­ple busi­ness,” said Pas­sang.

Many ap­ple ex­porters feel that in­creased de­mand from lo­cal agro in­dus­tries could go a long way in min­i­miz­ing loss.

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