Moldova enters Indian apple market, exports first consignment


Apples from Moldova, an east European nation, will now be available in India taking on the likes from the US, New Zealand, Turkey, Iran, Chile, Italy and other such exporting nations. 

“We have brought 100 tonnes of Moldovan apples for the first time to India on a trial basis through Chennai and Mumbai ports. Once the government gives the go-ahead after these trial imports, we will be getting more from that country,” said Nishanth Yeddanapalli, Managing Director of Chennai-based Purecrop Agro Pvt Ltd. 

Trial shipments 

Purecrop Agro Pvt Ltd is an arm of the 85-year-old Vaduvammal Group that has diversified business ranging from steel to metal recycling to chemicals to agriculture.

Moldova, a part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, got permission to ship its apples to India in 2018 on a trial basis. It was given a five-year window to complete the trial shipments. “Our first shipment failed in 2018 as we did not know how to meet Indian regulations. We are better prepared now with many agencies coming forward to help us,” said Ana Taban, ambassador-at-large for economic diplomacy, Moldovian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration.

Competitors

“Once we decided to bring apples from Moldova, it took less than 40 days to get them to India,” said Yeddanapalli, adding that the fruit will be competitively priced. “Moldovan apples are sweet and will compete with those from Turkey, Italy and Poland,” he said.  

Currently, the wholesale price of imported apples is ₹2,500-600 for an 18-kg box. In the domestic market, apples, grown in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, now cost between ₹80 and ₹100 a kg. 

Modern cultivation

Ion Tulei, Commercial Director, Moldova’s FarmProd Ltd, said his country produces nearly 5.5 lakh tonnes of apples and exported 2.45 lakh tonnes during the August 2021-July 22 marketing season. 

Andrei Cumpanici, food safety, quality and sustainability manager, said Moldovan producers implement good agricultural practices to meet global quality standards, particularly since they export to Europe. 

Diana Vlasiuc, Export Market Development Specialist; Ana Taban, Ambassador-at-large for Economic Diplomacy and European Integration; Andrei Cumpanici, Food Safety and Quality Manager, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ion Tulei, Commercial Director, FarmProd Ltd; Vitalie Obrejanu, Commercial Director, Fresh-Times at a function to launch Moldova apples in India

The agricultural practices meet the integrated farm assurance standard, the most widely used food safety certification for fresh produce across the world.  

Cumpanici said apples are cultivated using modern techniques and it helps orchards get a yield of 55-70 tonnes a hectare. “We grow Gala, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Jonagold and Granny Smith varieties,” he said. 

Tulei said most of the varieties are of Italian origin but the erstwhile Soviet Union member’s better soil gives Moldova an advantage. 

Ukraine War impact

Taban said the Ukraine war has forced Moldova to look at other markets. “Russia imports over 90 per cent of our apples. In August, it announced an embargo on our apples. It has been lifted but you never know. So, we are looking at other markets,” she said. 

The war has deprived apple growers of access to the nearby Odesa Port which is hardly 60 km from their orchards. “We now take our produce to Romania’s Constanta Port which is 600 km away,” said Obrejanu.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Moldova’s Foreign Ministry and its Agriculture Ministry came together to ensure the current shipments. “We have never had any diplomatic relations till now. But we will use trade to build our relations. The first step is to export apples. We would like to import pharmaceuticals from India,” the ambassador-at-large said.

The Centre’s decision to impose a 75 per cent Customs duty on apples from the US as part of its measure to retaliate against Washington’s move to impose a higher duty on Indian steel will likely give Moldovian apples an edge. For apples from other countries, the import duty is 50 per cent.

Moldova is trying to become a member of the European Union. “We have to meet at least nine norms. The EU will see if we have met these norms at the end of this year. Then, the process to make an EU member will begin,” Taban said.





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