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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Himachal Pradesh cold stores cut apple target, blame hail, poor produce

The state has a storage capacity of more than 65,000 metric tonnes of fruits in more than 20 CA and cold stores run by the government as well as the private sector.

By: Express News Service | Shimla | Updated: August 20, 2020 10:35:54 pm

Several owners of controlled atmosphere (CA) and cold stores in Himachal Pradesh are expecting a lower-than-normal storage of apples this year due to factors such as lower production and issues with the crop’s quality. The state has a storage capacity of more than 65,000 metric tonnes of fruits in more than 20 CA and cold stores run by the government as well as the private sector. A part of the total production of apples is stored in these facilities to avoid distress sale or glut in the market, and to sell the fruit in the off-season.

“We normally store around 500 MT of apples, but this year it’s not expected to go above 200 MT. Due to the ongoing pandemic, farmers are uncertain about the market situation in the coming months and preferring to sell their produce right away instead of storing it,” said Roopesh Sharma, who runs a CA store in Bhuntar.

Scab disease and hailstorms have diminished the quality of the crop this year, according to Hitin Suri, joint managing director of Suri Agro Fresh, a company which procures apples from farmers and stores them in its CA facilities outside the state.

“Only 30 to 40 per cent of the produce is of storable quality due to a wide prevalence of hail marks and scab spots. So we’re not expecting to utilise more than 70 percent of our total storage capacity of 10,000 MT,” he said.

Meanwhile, Neeraj Sharma from Devi Bhumi Cold Chain in Matiana said that he has set a target of 5,000 MT storage this year. “The total production of apples in the state this time is projected at around two crore boxes as compared to 3.2 crore boxes last year. Around 5 to 10 per cent of the total produce, comprising disease-free fruits, is usually placed in cold/CA stores,” he said.

A statement by Adani Agri Fresh, which runs three CA stores in the state, said that its “storage facilities have witnessed a rise of 5,500 active number of farmers as compared to in 2019”.

Storage usually starts in the state in September, when apple-growers either store their produce for four to five months on rent, or store owners procure the crop directly from them. A majority of the CA/cold stores in the state are privately-run, while the state government undertaking HPMC runs five CA stores and two cold stores.

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