Local apple exporters and farmers are not hopeful from earning much from the crop as the price of apple has slumped due to limited market. The price in the beginning was better but it is currently at a low.
Royal apple comes in four different sizes; the extra-large size fetches Nu 750 per box while earlier it used to cost Nu 1,100. The price of large apples is Nu 700 per box in the Indian market; earlier it used to cost Nu 1,050. Similarly, the price of medium Golden apples fell from Nu 650 to Nu 700 per box. And small apples currently sell at Nu 400 a box; earlier it fetched Nu 500.
Exporters say that due to low demand and limited market in India, the price has fallen. Also apples from North India dominate the Indian and Bangladeshi market with apples that are comparatively better in than in the Bhutanese market. Without demand from Bangladesh, not a single consignment has been sent to Bangladesh from Phuentsholing till now. Apples from Phuentsholing till now are exported to India only.
The apple season starts from mid-June till October. The price this year is expected to remain low without increase till the season ends. An exporter from Phuentsholing said that with the increased supply of Chinese apple and better yield from Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Nainital and other north Indian apple growing states, apple from Bhutan which is inferior in quality has less scope today. “If Indian customers stop buying, then there will be a market problem for Bhutanese apples,” he said.
Every exporter sends up to seven truckloads of apple daily from Phuentsholing. While Royal variety is graded and priced based on different sizes, the other varieties are sold at wholesale rate of Nu 450 per box.
However, a 61-year-old supplier, Sangay Tshering from Paro is still hopeful about gaining a good price. He said that the price this year did not meet expectation as the farmers quote higher than the previous years. “When they quote high and the exporters don’t, it is worrisome,” he said. He said that expenses have increased on buying boxes and transportation charges to reach Phuentsholing.
The current floor price to Bangladesh is fixed at US$ 600 per Metric Ton (MT) which comes around Nu 800 per box. And it is a loss for exporters to export at this rate because expenses to export are high. “Apple export has become tough with supply of better qualities from other countries. Still we are hopeful,” said Melam Tenzin, another exporter in Phuentsholing.
Some senior apple exporters have kept themselves out from business this year after foreseeing loss. Sonam Tobgay, proprietor of Druk Phuensum Import and Export has taken a break this year. He said that the price and the demand is not up to expectation and he felt business would not be profitable. The export company has been in the export business for more than 30 years. “With higher rate at orchards and low in the market, I decided not to take risk this year,” he said.
Meanwhile, some other exporters are still supplying to the Indian market.
Krishna Ghalley from Thimphu