Indian consumers will soon be able to buy imported apples from Germany. IG International, a fruit importing firm, is importing a new origin apple called ‘Jonagold’ from Veos, a German company, said Tarun Arora, Director, Finance and Operations, IG International Pvt. Ltd.
“Apples from Germany were not allowed to be imported in India till now. The protocols are discussed between the countries and it takes a minimum of two years to apply and execute the same. Both the Indian and German embassies worked towards granting this,” Arora told BusinessLine.
The company will be importing 1,000 metric tonnes from Germany initially. Jonagold is similar to ‘Red Delicious’, imported from the US and Italy, and the most common variety among imported apples. While the variety remains the same, Jonagold signifies a change in origin. The first arrival of the shipments will be in five weeks’ time and the apples will be priced at INR 135 per kg, similar to that of other origins.
The other popular varieties of apples the company imports include Royal Gala from the US, Italy, New Zealand and Chile, as well as Granny Smith from the US and Italy.
Focus on apples
The company’s portfolio comprises of 65 per cent apples, which is around 57,000 tonnes of apple imports out of the total of 80,000 tonnes of fruit imports. After apples come kiwi, pear and citrus, which contribute 25,000 to 30,000 tonnes of total input volume.
Apples have been witnessing organic growth of 10-15 per cent year after year for the company, said Arora.
He said that one of the challenges in the fruit import industry is the shortage of cold chains and the reluctance of traders in moving from old terminals markets which face a severe shortage of cold chains.
“They still do not believe in refrigerating the product or maintaining the cold chain, which eventually boils down to losses on the value of the product…A cold chain is very critical to maintain the freshness of an apple,” he said.
Owing to long summers in most parts of the country, maintaining the apples at good quality necessitates proper refrigeration.
Investing in a cold chain
Keeping this in mind, IG International is planning to invest INR 40 crore on cold chains, as well as INR 10 crore on logistics. It currently has 15 cold storages across the country, which it plans to increase to 20 by opening up new stores in the North East, Delhi, Kolkata and places in Central India, such as Bhopal.
The company is also planning to add another 20 trailers to its existing fleet of 70 refrigerated trailers/trucks. Plans to set up retail stores are also in the pipeline.
The company had recently announced that it would be importing Alphonso mangoes from Malawi, South Africa. Arora said that IG is planning to increase the volume from this year’s 10 tonnes to 400 tonnes next year. “Malawi being located in the Southern Hemisphere gives these mangoes earlier than India gets them. The game is to bring them when there is no Indian mango available,” said Arora.
As for the import of exotic fruit categories, IG currently focuses on direct shipments to Delhi and Mumbai. There are plans to expand this to Bangalore, Calcutta, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad and have direct shipments coming into these locations for sale in these cities. This is to avoid the longer turnaround time and maintain the freshness.
The company is also considering entering domestic production, with the main focus on blueberries, kiwi and avocado. And though it plans to focus only on imports for now, once domestic production gets executed, IG International plans to export these fruits to the Middle East, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It will leverage its infrastructure to sell it in India as well.
The company’s growth rate is 20 per cent, while the industry has been growing at 14 per cent on an average for the last eight years, said Arora.