Smuggled Chinese apples flood Guwahati markets
Apples smuggled from China are entering Guwahati illegally and the city markets are flooded with such apples. These fruits are harmful as repeated tests had found pests in the incoming shipments in May 2017 after which India had suspended import of apples and pear from China. The import of apples from China was suspended in India from 1st June 2017.
The manager of Shankar Fruits Distributors (a fruit distributor in Guwahati) said, “We do not sell Fuji apples (Chinese apple brand) as it is illegal to sell them and they have been banned in India since one year.” He further said that some retailers sell it after procuring the same illegally.
Shankar Rai, a fruit retailer who has a shop in Fancy Bazar said, “Fuji apples reach Guwahati markets early in the mornings and the stock is limited.” Rai said that as the demand for Fuji apples is huge, the stock gets cleared out very fast within the daytime itself and by evenings it is not available in the market.
He explained that in Fancy Bazar no distributor stocks such apples as apples mostly come to Guwahati from Delhi. At present, Indian apples are not available in the market; all the apples are imported from countries like New Zealand, USA and so on.
The distributors in Delhi import the apples and these further get shipped to the distributors in Guwahati. He said that Fuji apples are in demand because during the monsoon season the officially imported apples are expensive while comparatively, the Chinese apples are cheaper.
The Chinese apples are smuggled in from China through Myanmar, Manipur, Nagaland and then to Guwahati.
A source in the Fancy Bazar wholesale fruit market explained the entire nexus. There are around four to five Manipuri women who are running the entire business in Guwahati. According to the source, the gang collects the orders from the retailers and accordingly the demand is placed with their associates located in Manipur.
The consignments are then loaded in the night super buses and sent to Guwahati via Dimapur. The consignments carried in the night supers, reach Guwahati in the early mornings (4.30 am to 6 am) at the Guwahati Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT).
From ISBT, the apples are delivered to the retailers according to the demands. The retailers are mainly based in Adabari and Fancy Bazar.
Chinese apples cost Rs 1,850 to Rs 2,200 per carton whereas apples imported from USA and New Zealand cost Rs 3,200 to Rs 3,500. Cartons are of two sizes: one containing 14-15 kgs of apples and the other containing 18kgs.
The retailers save around Rs 500 minimum while selling one carton in Guwahati, whereas with the other apples, they save around Rs 50, the source claimed.
Authorities to conduct special drives against the business
The authorities are aware of this illegal business and are planning special drives against the same.
A senior official in the customs department said, “We are aware of this illegal business and our team had even seized some fruits in Manipur.”
He said, even in Guwahati, some cartons of apples were seized a few weeks back.
He said, “We are also planning various drives against the illegal business.”
The source said that it becomes difficult to identify the product after it reaches the market as the Chinese apples are mixed with the other apples and the cartons that they come packed in are also destroyed.
The health department officials, along with the recently appointed minister of state for health & family welfare, Pijush Hazarika, were seen visiting fruit shops to check the quality of the fruits a few days ago. Talking to the health department a source said, “Chinese apples are harmful as it is infected with various pests. We are planning action against such traders selling Chinese apples in Guwahati.”
Even food inspectors are planning raids to identify Chinese apples in Guwahati and these will be further sent for tests.