The best apples are fetching about Nu 800 to Nu 900 a box in Phuentsholing this season, which according to exporters is a drop from what the price was about two weeks ago.

It was Nu 900 to Nu 1,000 then.

Graded apples and apples plucked before it turned reddish are the reasons Bhutanese apples are not fetching good prices, according to the exporters.

The owner of the Singey Trading said grading has become a major problem with apples farmers bring to the market today.

“People show us different apples on the surface but the apples are not the same at the bottom,” he said. “Bhutanese farmers and suppliers need to learn good plucking and packaging method.”

However, the exporter said some farmers in Thimphu and Paro are still maintaining grading quality.

They say apples from Himachal Pradesh impacts the market for Bhutanese apple.

Exporters say there is more demand for the apples from the Indian state due to qualitative grading and colour.

There are four types of apple qualities in the market. The lowest price depending on the size and quality is Nu 300 a box. A box of apple weighs about 18 to 20kgs.

Besides the price, production has also decreased this time, according to the exporters.

Nima export’s owner, Sujata Chhetri, said farmers who bring apple to their shop say production has dripped this year.

“Farmers say orchards would be empty before the end of September,” he said.

A manager with an export firm in Phuentsholing, Sangay Dorji, said there is demand for good apple sizes that are fully ripened. “The price also depends on the type of apple.”

A farmer from Paro, Rinzing, said apple production has dropped drastically compared to the previous years.

“I think it is because of the heat this year,” the farmer said. “This year’s harvest is not even half compared to last year.”

Rinzing said he is expecting around 30 boxes compared to last year’s 200 boxes he sold.

However, a farmer from Haa, Rinzin Dorji, said the yield is better in Haa this year.

“It is not time to pluck yet,” he said, adding he also had heard that harvest was not good in Paro.

Rinzin Dorji said the farmers in Haa would start bringing apples to the market by September mid.

Bhutan exported 2,724 metric tonnes (MT) of apples worth USD 1.28 million (M) to India and Bangladesh in 2016. Bhutan was able to export 2,896.19MT apples worth USD 1.35M in 2015.

In 2014 Bhutan exported 6,772.42MT of apples worth USD 4.40M, the highest in the last decade.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing