Business:  Earnings from apple export this year dropped almost three times compared to last year, according to Bhutan Exporters Association (BEA) officials.

The drastic reduce from USD 4.4 million (M) last year to USD 1.3M this year was attributed to the poor season this year. Production of apples reduced by a similar margin- from 6,772 metric tonnes in 2014 to 2,896 metric tonnes.

BEA general secretary in Phuentsholing, Tshering Yeshey attributed the decrease in production to “urbanization” meaning that more and more orchards are lost to urbanization. “Although there isn’t huge impact, apple orchards across the country are destroyed as they give way to construction,” he said.

Without compromising development activities, the general secretary said the government must look to intervene in such a way that the orchards are not destroyed and apple production is not affected.

Meanwhile, competition from other apple exporting countries also has increased considering Bangladesh as the major portion for market. Countries like China, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, and India has also hit the market in Bangladesh where most of Bhutan’s apple is sold.

The association officials said exporting apple beyond Bangladesh and India was not feasible. Transportation costs incurred are expensive.

Like last year, the minimum (floor) price this year was decided at USD 650. The price was fixed considering production exchange rate in India, including the market dynamics.

In 2013, the fruit was exported at USD 700, which was more than the floor price.

Apples from Bhutan are demanded due to its low chemical contains. As per the formalin test conducted last year Bhutanese apple has a low chemical content of about 0.19 percent.

Starting from 2001 until this year, apple growers have generated USD 25.25M in total. The highest earnings were generated in 2014.

With apple export season coming to an end, mandarin growers from across the country are busy preparing stores in Phuentsholing.

Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing