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INTERVIEW

“India imports 24 times more apples than it produces”
Monday, 14 January, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Stemilt Growers is known for supplying apples, pears, cherries, and stone fruits to national and regional retail chains in the US and export  markets  around the  world.  Stemilt is a leading tree fruit growing, packing and shipping company based in Wenatchee, WA. Over the years, it has evolved into US’ largest supplier of sweet cherries and a leading supplier of organic tree fruits. The company operates two fruit packaging facilities in Washington and one in Stockton, California. West Mathison, president, Stemilt Growers, in an e-mail interaction with Shraddha Joshi, shares insight into the Indian market for apples and more. Excerpts:

How do you see the Indian market for apples. What are the consumption trends of apples in India compared to the global consumption trends?
Globally, the apple industry has seen the advent of new varieties and flavours. As a result, the global supply has increased to serve the growing demand around the world. Stemilt is very interested in India because it is an apple eating country. The local production of Indian apples has built demand for apples and therefore the quick acceptance of imported apples. We also see an opportunity to bring these new apple varieties to the discerning Indian consumer.

Is India self-sufficient in producing apples?
No, the Indian apple producers start the market with good quality, then the supplies run low in January.  Apples from USA are able to supplement the consumers of India until the local crop starts in August. The country of India imports 24 times more apples than it produces.

What is your export target for the current year season to India?
The apple supplies in the US are down from last year. Although, we aim to send 20,000 MT of apples this coming season. For the months of June, July and August we plan to increase our exports of fresh sweet cherries.

What kind of apples are being imported?
There are seven different varieties being imported in India – Red Delicious, Royal Gala, Granny Smith, Piñata, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, organic variety with the first two remaining the primary varieties. Organic apples will cater to the health-conscious Indian consumers.
India's apex food regulator, FSSAI, recently issued a guidance note on the use of stickers on imported fruits and vegetables, as they could lead to the contamination of the food product. Comment.

The stickers that we use on our fruits are 100% safe and present no risk of contamination. The manufacturers of our stickers are US-based and have to comply with extensive food safety regulations. In addition, we have strict protocol on processing of our fruit that includes the safe and proper application of the stickers.

India has again delayed retaliatory tariffs on US apples. Has this tariff war impacted the trade?
Last year we exported a record amount of fruit to India as the trade issues were unfolding. We believe that our business to India will be strong next year and that trade issues will soon be resolved.

There is a lot going on about GM products getting imported to India. Do you think GM foods are harmful? Are your apples GM-free?  
The science on GM products is still to be reviewed. Thankfully, 100% of our products are GMO-free, yet more importantly as great source of natural vitamins, fibre and a healthy snack.
 
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