Shimla, (IANS) Early varieties of apples of Himachal Pradesh have arrived in the market, attracting buyers from across the country.
"The season has started well. The demand is high and the fresh arrivals always sell better than the later crop," Horticulture Director Gurdev Singh told IANS.
He said varieties like Red Gold, Red June and Tydeman's Early Worcester have reached the markets. "This year the crop harvesting is 15 to 20 days in advance."
Cartons of the fruit have already been despatched to Delhi, Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana and are fetching good prices, he said. "Local traders are getting good enquiries from across the country about the actual arrival of the crop."
Ashok Sharma, a trader at the Dhalli wholesale fruit market near here, said: "Every day 2,000 crates of apple are reaching here from upper Shimla areas. Most of the crates are heading towards Chandigarh, Amritsar and Delhi."
The apples are selling Rs.100-120 a kg in the retail markets of Chandigarh and Delhi.
S.P. Bhardwaj, former joint director at the Solan-based Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, said early varieties are not so delicious but these command a monopoly.
"The new arrival of any fruit in the market always attracts the buyers. As early varieties attain maturity between 95 and 120 days after full bloom, these reach the markets quite ahead of other varieties that normally take 135 to 180 days," he said.
Bhardwaj said like the early ones other normal varieties would also hit the stalls well in advance.
Sanjay Chauhan, an apple farmer from upper Shimla, said: "The apple season started almost a week ago. The harvesting of superior varieties would begin end of next month."
The price of the early varieties range between Rs.200 and Rs.450 per 20-kg box.
In the wholesale market at Dhalli, a box of Tydeman's Early Worcester variety is selling between Rs.400 and Rs.450, whereas Red June is fetching Rs.200-Rs.250.
The horticulture department estimates that there would be a record production this time. "The apple yield would cross the 2008-09 mark of 510,000 tonnes," Singh said.
Apple production had declined to 280,000 tonnes last year due to a dry monsoon and a snowless winter.
The meteorological office in Shimla said the state experienced plentiful rain this year.
"The entire state, except Chamba district, experienced good spells of rain this month. The rain is helpful for the apples to attain optimum size and enough sweetness," Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological office, said.
After the early varieties, the harvesting of superior varieties like Red Chief, Super Chief and Royal Delicious would begin. Shimla, Kullu and Mandi districts are known for growing high-quality apples.
However, the world famous delicious apples from Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti districts would start arriving by October when the harvesting from other areas is almost over.
Apple is Himachal Pradesh's main fruit crop and is being grown in nine out of 12 districts. The area under the apple crop has increased to 97,438 hectares in 2008-09 from 400 hectares in 1950-51. Currently, the apple industry is worth Rs.1,500 crore.
Besides apple, other fruits like pears, peaches, cherries, apricots, kiwi, strawberry, olive, almonds and plums are the major commercial crops of the state.