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.
Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing