Exotic seems to be the flavour of the season in Kerala’s fruit markets, with Malayalis taking to apples from Chile, oranges from Egypt and grapes from Israel.

Around 4,000 boxes of apples, each box weighing 20 kg, arriving from New Zealand, Chile, China and the United States are sold in Kerala every day, says P.V. Hamsa of All Kerala Fruit Merchants’ Association.

These apples are crunchy and Malayalis seem to love them. They are competitively priced at $25 to $28 (Rs.1,355 to Rs.1,518) a box for the Chinese variety and $30 (Rs.1,626) a box for the American variety.

Fruit importers say the Kerala market is now more accessible thanks to the international container transshipment terminal here, which makes transport easier and cheaper against imports via Chennai and Tuticorin.

Delighted with the ease of imports and the rapidly changing profile of the flourishing fruit market, vendors are discerning, eager to meet the demand for the exotic. The boom in imports shows that mango may be the king but other fruits are no pushovers if not rivals to the throne.

Malayalis have also taken to seedless grapes from Sangli and Meerut in a big way, says Mr. Hamsa, who estimates that 30 to 35 loads of seedless grapes are shipped to the State from Maharashtra on a daily basis. The lorry loads vary in weight between 6 and 10 tonnes.

The boom in demand has resulted in bulk transport, which has in turn reduced the retail price considerably, he says. A kilogram of seedless grapes now costs between Rs.40 and Rs.60 across Kerala. The more exotic red blob grapes from New Zealand, the Philippines, Israel and sometimes from Iran via Pakistan or the Gulf ports, is another entrant into the State market. It costs between Rs. 280 and Rs. 300 a kg but has found takers in the market.

Oranges along with mangoes form the fastest selling fruit in the State. Nagpur oranges are Kerala staple and account for nearly 70 per cent of the sales here. Fruit from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh too have made their way into Kerala.

However, the oranges market has had a surprise with the fruit coming from Egypt. These seedless oranges are in demand though the buyers are only getting familiar with the variety. The oranges are priced in the retail market at Rs. 750 per 15 kg pack, which works out approximately to Rs. 50 a kg. Mr. Hamsa says that more than 25 loads of oranges, each weighing between 9 and 15 tonnes, arrive in Kerala every day. The case of the Iranian variety of water melons (locally called Kiran) is another example of the fruit-lovers’ eagerness to experiment. The Kiran variety is now cultivated extensively in Andhra Pradesh and Malayalis love it for its bright colour and price, that ranges between Rs. 12 and Rs. 16 a kg.

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