Short term marketing strategy causing long term loss
Shimla | TNR
In a competitive market where the colour of apples matters and early supply to markets is essential, the use of a chemical called ethrel is becoming quite common in orchards.
However, this short-term marketing strategy is causing long term loss to orchard owners as apples treated with ethrel cannot be stored for long and the fruit may drop prematurely.
Horticulture specialist Dr SP Bhardwaj told TNR that by using ethrel some owners are actually harming their orchards.
Apple ripening process
He said that the royal variety of apple ripens anytime between 125 and 135 days but at some orchards, it is ready within 115 to 120 days with the use of ethrel, which is sprayed on the fruits. Early ripening means early sale but if the fruit remains packed for a week then there is a possibility of its rotting, Dr Bhardwaj added.
Practice prevalent in orchards at low altitude
He said that this practice is most prevalent in orchards situated at low altitudes. The season for apple growing begins earlier at low altitudes and hence they get a better price for the fruits as they are out in the market early. At the start of the season, a 25 kg carton of apples fetches Rs 3000 to Rs 4000. As the season progresses and fruit from orchards at high altitudes hits the market the price drops to anywhere between Rs 1500 to Rs 2000 per carton.
Dangers of using ethrel
Dr Bhardwaj said that spraying trees with ethrel makes the leaves turn yellow and it leads to defoliation. The plant life is also reduced over a period of time, he said adding that the early ripening process reduces the size of the fruit. There are also instances of the fruit dropping prematurely from the trees, he said. Apples from orchards situated at a high altitude remain stored in airconditioned stores for nearly five to seven months, he informed whereas apples ripened with ethrel cannot be stored in an AC store.
University had recommended limited use of ethrel
Dr Bhardwaj said that Horticulture University, Nauni, had recommended limited use of ethrel in specific cases where orchards owners have planted an unsuitable variety. The recommendation was to use 2.5 ml to 3 ml per litre of water but some owners are getting double or thrice the quantity of ethrel on the trees.
Normally the season for the sale of apples begins in July and ends in October. During rains apples, transported in trucks to various markets of the country, sometimes remain stuck due to flooding or other reasons in the plains. Apples ripened with ethrel start rotting and to prevent major losses owners resort to a price reduction to ensure a quick sale. However, as the prices are reduced by owners of orchards in low altitude places, the fruits from high altitude orchards bear the brunt when they are transported to markets later.