What fruits are exported from India

From the foot of the Himalayas - apples value chain in India


Despite a low apple consumption of only approx. 2kg / head / year is India with approx. 2.3Milliont (2017) apples - to 314,000ha - after China, USA, Poland and Turkey - the fifth largest apple producer in the world; Apple cultivation only accounts for 2.4% of the total fruit production in the country and is concentrated in the 4 northwestern provinces of Jammu and Kashmir (approx. 70%), Himachal Pradesh (approx. 20%), Uttarakhand (approx. 10%) and Arunachal Pradesh, where at altitudes of 1000–3500 m at the foot of the Himalayas with 800–1600 cold hours (CH - Chilling hours) there is sufficient cold stimulus for flower formation. Compared to vegetables, apples are a lucrative crop for small-scale farmers, despite low harvest yields on slopes of an average of 10 t / ha from the ‘Red Delicious‘ group, originally on a seedling base.

Significant losses are caused by improper harvest, lack of fruit stores and, for the long distances and poor roads, often inadequate (plastic-free) packaging made of straw and newspaper in cardboard boxes or high hard wooden boxes and transport without refrigeration.

Mangoes, table grapes and pomegranates and around 18,000 are exportedt apples im Value of US $ 9 million in neighboring Bangladesh and Nepal. An import embargo for apples from China since May 2017, officially due to pest infestation, reduced apple imports from 370,000 t (2016/17) to 250,000 t in 2017/18 and 270,000 t in 2018/19. Apples of the varieties ‘Fuji‘, ‘Red Delicious‘, ‘Gala‘, ‘Granny Smith‘ and others are imported. from US, (China), New Zealand, Chile and South Tyrol; So far, half of all apple imports have come from Washington State, whose import tariff has been raised from 50 to 75% following economic sanctions.

The Indian market or consumer prefers large, red (or green) apples with minor peel defects. The high wholesale prices of 28–35Rs / kg (0.34-0.43€ / kg) for domestic and 56–145Rs / kg (0.69-1.77€ / kg) for imported apples in January 2019, apple exporters offer a market potential of approx. 200Million € annually. High prices and manual labor dominate the apple value chain, which also secures an income for many unskilled people.


With nearly 2.3milt apple cultivation on 314,000ha, India ranks as the 5th largest apple producer worldwide, but amounts to only 2.4% of India’s overall fruit production. Apple cultivation is traditionally concentrated in the provinces Jammu and Kaschmir (approx. 70%), Himachal Pradesh (approx. 20%), Uttarakhand (approx. 10%) and Arunachal Pradesh in the foothills (1000 to 3500 m) of the Himalayan mountains with 800–1600 CH provides sufficient chilling. Despite low yields of an averaged 10t / ha"Apple of the" Red Delicious "group is an economic crop — relative to vegetables — for smallholder farmers. The fruits are transported 4 to 8 days by truck sometimes on poor roads and without cooling to their destination, whereas imported fruit arriving at a port benefit from shorter inland transport and cool chain. Lack of harvest techniques, storage facilities, refrigerated transport and protective packaging results in considerable losses along the domestic apple supply chain.

The Indian apple market with an estimated apple consumption of approx. 3.1 milt / year or approx. 2kg / head per year is supplied approx. 90% (2–3 mil t) by inland production and by approx. 10% by apple imports. Imports dropped from 370,000 t in 2016/7 (worth US $ 200,000) to 250,000 t in 2017/8 and 270,000 t in 2018/19 after an import ban for apples from China due alleged sanitary contamination from May 2017 and increase in import duty on US fruit from 50 to 75%. International fruit suppliers are the US, (China), New Zealand, Chile and Italy with apple cvs 'Fuji', 'Red Delicious', 'Gala', 'Granny Smith', etc. with an overall market potential of approx. 200 mil U.S $. India exports mangos, table grapes and pomegranates, as well as approx. 18,000t apples (worth 9 mil US $) to neighboring Bangladesh and Nepal.

The Indian market and consumer prefers large, red (or green) essentially blemish-free apples, which fetch high prices from 28-35Rs / kg (0.34-0.43€ / kg) for domestic to 56-145Rs / kg (0.69-1.77€ / kg; Jan 2019) for imported fruit, the latter with 200 mil euros attractive for the international apple trade. (Un-) loading, grading, transport and fruit stalls are dominated by manual labor and offer unskilled people social security and income.


At INTERPOMA 2018 in Bolzano, India was identified as the country with the greatest potential for apples (Arora 2018). Even though China, with its 44 million t of apples in 2016 (FAO 2018), is by far the top position worldwide in apple production, India is considered to be the number 1 hope for both apple consumption and apple production. An increase in Indian apple demand or consumption by 500 g / capita, i.e. only 3 additional apples per capita and year, e.g. B. through increasing prosperity and health awareness, means an increase in demand of 700,000 t (Arora 2018), which domestic cultivation cannot yet satisfy, but has the potential to do so. India is the third largest and most important apple buyer for Washington State, especially since there was an embargo or import ban on Chinese apples in India from May 2017. This article describes personal impressions of the author's study trips - most recently in January 2019 - to the apple supply chain / value chain in India.

Location of the fruit-growing areas - chilling (cold stimulus) as a limiting cultivation factor and origin of the apple varieties

India with its 1.3 billion inhabitants has an average population (1.1% per year) with (slowly) increasing prosperity compared to the world population (World Bank 2018). The gross domestic product is only US $ 1,800 / person / year - with uneven distribution and an annual increase of 7.3% (2017) compared to China with US $ 8,690 / person / year with similar population growth and number of inhabitants. Domestic apple cultivation is concentrated in the 4 north-western provinces (Fig. 1) Jammu and Kashmir (approx. 70%), Himachal Pradesh (approx. 20%), Uttarakhand (approx. 10%) and Arunachal Pradesh (Fig. 1) ( Horticulture Statistics Division 2017). The fruit is grown at altitudes of 1000–3500 m at the foot of the Himalayas: only there, with 800–1600 CH (Chilling hours) (Chauhan 2016) (Tab. 1), sufficient chilling is available for flower formation. As with us, the fruit-growing areas in the Himalayas are migrating northwards and from the valley to the higher altitudes with climate change (Singh and Patel 2017). With the English colonial rulers, the first apple trees with typically English varieties, seedlings and the large, green triploid cooking apple 'Bramley' came to this region around 1870, until the resident Samuel Evan Stokes in 1918 American 'Red Delicious' mutants (Tab. 1) like "Red Chief", "Jeromine", etc. brought with ‘Gala‘ from his homeland as pollinators, which today dominate cultivation. The area under cultivation in H. Pradesh rose from 400 hectares in 1950 to approx. 100,000 hectares today with an increasing tendency and fast-growing seedlings are slowly being replaced by weaker growing rootstocks.

For several years, research has been carried out at border locations south of these traditional growing areas in the Himalayas in higher regions in southern India with the lucrative apple cultivation and varieties with low exposure to cold. These experiments are funded by the Indian state with scientific support or carried out on a private initiative, with the aim of increasing income and supplying local markets with fresh, local apples.

Farm size, ownership and yields - high prices for premium apples

The typical farm area in Himachal Pradesh is approximately 1.2 hectares (3.1 acres) and feeds a family. The land belongs to the smallholders and is inherited - a good prerequisite for sustainable cultivation (Terlau et al. 2018). Apple is the most productive crop for farmers - compared to vegetables. Despite the official toll exemption for fruit / vegetables, transport fees and a sales commission of approx. 5-6% have to be paid. The country's average production is around 2.3 million tonnes of apples on over 300,000 ha (Fig. 2) - compared to Germany with 900,000 t on 33,000 ha - i.e. H. approx. 10 t / ha, whereby the yields per tree in small plots on the slopes of northern India are difficult to convert to ha.

Cultivation and apple fruit exports from India - largest import potential for apples worldwide

The apple harvest takes place - depending on the altitude - from the end of July / August to November at the same time as in Europe, in the USA or in China. India is at 1.89Million t (2013), 2.2 (2015) to 2.89 million t (2017) and 2.2-2.3 million t (2018) apples (FAO 2018; Fig. 2) on 314,000 ha - to China, USA, Poland and Turkey - the fifth largest apple producer in the world. The amount of apples harvested is roughly the same as in Italy, Iran or Turkey. Despite the impressive numbers, apple production only accounts for 2.4% of India's total fruit production (Arora 2018).

India is regularly represented with a joint stand at Fruit Logistica in Berlin (Fig. 3). Mangoes, table grapes are exported - to England, Holland and Germany (Fig. 4) (Golombek and Blanke 2020) and pomegranates, but also around 18,000 t of apples worth US $ 9 million to neighboring Bangladesh and Nepal (Arora 2018) - Apple imports exceed this value by a factor of 24.

The apple imports are between 190,000 t (2014/15), 240,000 t (2015/16), up to 370,000 (2016/17) (FAO 2018; Werth and Kager 2018) and after the China ban again only 250,000 t (2017/18) and 270,000 t (2018/19) (Ministry of Commerce and Industry 2019). India thus offers apple exporters an enormous market potential of around 200Million euros annually under strict import regulations. Almost half of the apple imports so far came from Washington State, from there the ships travel around 40 days, from Europe only around 20 days, so that Europe would have a trade advantage (Arora 2018), but only a share of around 10% imports apples, around half of which Italy; Supplier countries in the southern hemisphere are Chile and New Zealand (Fig. 5); A first batch of ‘Jonagold‘ apples was shipped from Germany to India on a trial basis in early 2019.

Import embargo for apples from China and high import duties for the USA

The temporary import embargo on apples from China since May 2017 has been official due to the recurrence of the Asian scale insect Pseudococcus comstocki and the mushroom Fusarium oxysporum imposed during import controls. Apple importers must have a phytosanitary certificate when importing, e.g. B. a disinfection with methyl bromide, show and pay duty.

Significant losses from harvest to storage

Possible causes for bruises, injuries and rotting of the fruits (Khan et al. 2018) range from rough harvest, spilling out of the harvest baskets, improper sorting to long-distance transport. From the slopes, the apples must first be carried to the nearest streets by family members, porters or donkeys (Kireeti and Sharma 2017) before they are packed in 10 or 20 kg cardboard boxes or 20 kg wooden boxes; Interlayers consist of newspaper - straw - newspaper and strips of newspaper around the individual fruits. The packaging is plastic-free, in accordance with a government regulation for the avoidance of single-use plastic from January 1, 2019. The fruits are often transported without refrigeration (Fig. 6) for 4 to 8 days to the distant fruit wholesale markets, e.g. Sometimes on bad roads or on better roads and then with tolls that were officially issued for fruit and vegetables. In warm weather the losses can be 2-3 kg per 20 kg box, i.e. H. 10-15%. On arrival at the destination, apples are z. B. sorted out with bruises and rot and the goods re-packed - again in wooden boxes - (Fig. 6) and offered in an appealing way (Fig. 7), the wooden boxes are reused sustainably like in a pool of boxes. Damaged, rejected apples are z. Some of them are sold as cider fruit in the juice industry for 20% of the original price or are available free of charge to people in need, i.e. H. only some of the damaged apples are lost.

Losses can also occur if they are not properly stored in simple sheds (Kireeti and Sharma 2017; Melendez et al. 2017). Clever growers use the cold air from the mountains at night and then open their storage rooms (Wani et al. 2018). Further refrigerated and CA warehouses are set up in order to reduce storage losses and to be able to sell apples later, and then more profitably. So far, there is still an acute shortage of affordable cold storage at all levels of the marketing chain. The Indian state is promoting the construction of further cold storage and CA storage facilities. Indian companies now also offer solar-powered cold stores in many sizes (e.g. ecoZen, ecofrost). With the future cooling capacities, the targeted increases in yield should also be better used.

In contrast, the foreign apples are delivered in refrigerated trucks from ports such as Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Kolkata (Calcutta) (Fig. 1) and Chennai (Madras) to fruit markets such as Hyderabad with an almost closed cold chain.

Marketing at the fruit market in Kothapet / Hyderabad and in Hyderabad

Wholesalers sell apples either in an auction or on commission with a “commission agent” with a 5% profit share (Fig. 8 and 9). Street vendors carry the cardboard boxes purchased at the wholesale market (Fig. 10) to their stand (Fig. 11) or use sales carts (Fig. 12) and sell by weight or by piece, depending on whether they have scales. This type of fruit selling is a way of making money without employment or training. Other buyers at the wholesale market are fruit shops and supermarkets.

Consumption preferences on the Indian market and prices depending on fruit size, red color, origin and market form

The Indian consumer or market prefers large (> 75mm), red (or green) apples with no skin defects - with a low market share of green apples. The consumption preferences are reflected e.g. B. in the unit prices of Indian ‘Red Delicious‘ apples from 10 to 25 Rs - a factor of 2.5 - and in the Indian quality classes A – C (Ahmad et al. 2014), where A 70-100%, B 50-70% and C 0-100% red peel portion describes.

The large apples can more likely be a result of low fruit cover - as a result of insufficient cold stimuli and flowering or targeted thinning measures.

In January 2019, the final prices of apples from Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh were comparable to those of other fruits. The foreign apples (Fig. 13) were almost twice as expensive and “trendy” because - as in Russia in the past - it was assumed that everything from abroad would be better for the time being (Blanke 2020).

While the supply of foreign apples predominated in two supermarkets (“organized markets”) with well-to-do customers in January, the situation was reversed on the street markets. An expensive green apple ‘is sold both in the supermarket and on the street market, which is often an imported import Granny Smith from New Zealand, Chile or South Tyrol (Table 2) (Yuri and Blanke 2020). Most of the apples are sold through street markets.

Apple - a sign of prosperity and sacrifice in religion

Even if the mango is regarded as the queen of all fruits in India, the apple is a symbol of prosperity - as a gift from the bride's parents to the groom's family (Fig. 14) and as a prasad for the believers after devotion in the Hindu temple. Apples as religious offerings are then available for priests or believers to eat, i. H. do not lead to food waste.

Price comparison for domestic Indian apples versus high prices for imported goods

At the wholesale market in Hyderabad, prices were at the wholesalers in January 2019 for domestic apples at 28–35Rs / kg (0.34-0.43€ / kg) and for foreign apples at 56–145Rs / kg (0.69-1.77€ / kg) (Tab. 3), whereby middlemen also buy in this wholesale market and then sell again at a higher price to the end dealer (Fig. 15). The profit margin between the wholesale market and the food retailer is 1/2 to 2/3 the final price, d. H. at a price of € 1.5 between € 0.75 and € 1 / kg.

Controversial apple origins on the street market in Hyderabad - New apple-growing area in Telangana and seasonality

In January the street sellers in Hyderabad pointed out the origin of the north Indian apples, which at that time came from the more distant border region of Kashmir (approx. 2500 km; Fig. 16) - and not from Himachal Pradesh (approx. 2000 km). In the future, apples from the north of Telangana, the state of Hyderabad, will also be delivered to Hyderabad; there new apple orchards are being built in a higher region. When there are fewer apples from northern India in Hyderabad from March onwards, there will be a small number of foreign apples on offer, which are too expensive for most apple buyers. Many (sub-) tropical fruits also grow in the warmer south of India, so that apples are less often eaten than in the cooler north of India if they are not readily available, if they are poor in taste, if the quality is higher and if the quality is higher.

Fruit quality and taste samples January 2019

When tasted in January, the ‘Red Delicious‘ apples from North India tasted superimposed with little sweetness and little acid, soft, not juicy; individual fruits showed pressure points and had an unpleasant aftertaste. For the buyers who cannot afford the expensive apples, this quality is sufficient because these apples are sold.

The foreign apples, which were almost twice as expensive, showed the whole spectrum from little to very tasty in terms of sweetness, acidity, firmness and juiciness with fewer bruises and without unpleasant aftertaste.


India's huge apple potential lies in a multiple increase in area yield, a reduction in high storage and transport losses and import potential of 250,000 to 400,000 t annually with high prices and increasing demand for healthy fruit and vegetables thanks to increasing prosperity, health and environmental awareness and also state efforts to largely dispense with single-use plastic, so that at the moment many development projects of the Indian state - also in cooperation with the World Bank - are being carried out.

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    The authors would like to thank Kavita Ramesh for the permission to reprint the two photos with the decorated apples as a wedding present from the bride's parents to the groom.


    Open Access funding provided by the DEAL project.

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    1. INRES Horticultural Science, University of Bonn, Auf dem Hügel 6, 53121, Bonn, Germany

      Sabine Golombek & Michael Blanke

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    Correspondence to Michael Blanke.

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