Washington apples
Washington apples. Photo: Washington Apple Commission

Washington apples are back in India; how it will affect local produce and industry

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Washington apples are set to be back in Indian markets as the Union government, last month, decided to remove retaliatory custom duties on 28 American products such as almonds, walnuts, and apples. However, this move has left Kashmir apple industry concerned.

In June, amid Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s State visit to the US, the decision to remove retaliatory custom duties was announced. Currently, the import duty on Washington apples is 70 per cent and it will be reduced to 50 per cent, likely from September.

In 2018, the US imposed 25 per cent and 10 per cent import duties on certain steel and aluminium products respectively on grounds of national security. In retaliation, India in June 2019 imposed customs duties on 28 American products, including chickpeas, lentils, almonds, walnuts, apples, boric acid, and diagnostic reagents.

Also read: Why import of Iranian apples is worrying growers in Kashmir

“The government on June 22 had indicated to do away with the 20% retaliatory import duty that was imposed during the Donald Trump regime, and it will become effective within 90 days,” said Sumit Saran, the India representative of the Washington Apple Commission, according to a report in Economic Times.

“Washington apple growers have already started cultivating more apples for the Indian market,” Saran added.

Reacting to this move of the government to reduce import duty on Washington apples, the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealers Union, representing the elected apex body of all fruit associations in the valley, has expressed displeasure.

Also read: Apples weren’t always big, juicy, sweet; ancient ones were small and bitter

“Such a development would result in limited opportunities for the domestic production of apples. Currently, the Kashmir Valley produces an impressive 22 lakh metric tons of apples, with approximately 70% of households in the J&K being directly or indirectly dependent on this sector,” the Union said, according to a report on Greater Kashmir website.

The Union feels that the cost of Washington apples will decrease and it will pose a severe threat to the domestic apple industry in Indian markets.

The Union has appealed to the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha and other high-level officials in the administration to intervene, urging them to take up the matter with the Union government, seeking an immediate reversal of the decision to reduce the import duty on Washington Apple, the report said.

Last month, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu criticised the Centre’s decision to reduce the import duty on Washington apples and said it was detrimental to the interests of apple growers who were persistently demanding a hike in import duty from 70 to 100 per cent.

“Instead of increasing the import duty, the Central Government has reduced the import duty on Washington Apple by 20 per cent which was against the interests of apple growers and would affect the apple economy,” he said.

Appealing to the Central government to reconsider its decision in the interests of the apple growers, Sukhu reminded that during 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, PM Modi had promised to increase the import duty on foreign apples.

According to the Washington Apple Commission, Washington is home to over 30 types of apples that range in flavour, texture, and colour. “They all have a few things in common. You can count on every Washington apple to be juicy, nutritious, and delicious.”

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