Exotic fruits become scarce and costlier, as bottlenecks in transportation emerge

KOLKATA|NEW DELHI: Exotic fruits such as dragon fruit, kiwi and blueberries have become scarce and costlier owing to bottlenecks in ports and roads transportation. Importers said the weakening rupee has further increased cost and hit their profit margins.

Exotic fruits importer IG International is staring at a huge loss due to the lockdown. “We had to dump a number of imported fruits like kiwi, dragon fruit and blueberries after the lockdown was announced. Fruits are perishable products and cannot be kept for more than 15 days. Some fruits have a seven-day longevity,” said Tarun Arora, director of the firm.

India currently imports 350,000 metric tonnes of fruits per annum, worth about Rs 3,000 crore, which is expected to increase to Rs 4,000 crore in two-three years. Of this, the exotic fruits category is valued at Rs 500-600 crore, according to industry estimates.

Arora said the ports were not operating fully. “Truckers are not willing to work now and the freight cost has increased. Even though we have orders in pipeline, we cannot deliver in this lockdown period,” he said.

Even if the lockdown is withdrawn after May 3, there is a big question mark over the consumption of exotic fruits, according to traders, because of an expected increase in prices from the usual Rs 200-500 per kg owing to the depreciation of the rupee against the dollar.

Amit Gidwani, president of Fresh Fruit Importers Association in Delhi, said supplies have gradually started arriving from the ports, but there are still a lot of bottlenecks in the supply chain, leading to a drop in sales. In any case, he said, demand from bulk consumers such as tourism and hospitality industry, five-star hotels, big retailers and wholesalers has dried up owing to the nationwide lockdown. The business has fallen to 25% of usual sales at this time of the year, he said.

Retailers said fruit prices have increased 25% in retail, with the result that kiwi is now priced at Rs 400 a kg and Washington apple at Rs 320 a kg. “Only apple and kiwi are available among imported fruits. For the last fortnight we have not been getting fresh blueberries, dragon fruit, passion fruit, peaches and mangustaan,” an executive of a retail chain in Delhi said on condition of anonymity.

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