Pomegranate Traders in India Have High Expectations from the US Market in 2023

Published Jan 20, 2023
Adverse weather in the early stage of fruit development caused a decrease in the overall production and smaller caliber fruits in the main producing pomegranate regions in India, Maharashtra, and Karanataka. Still, Indian traders of fresh pomegranate expect a boost in demand due to the reopening of the US market for pomegranate arils. The primary export months are August and September, while the most prevalent variety is 'Bhagwa'. With relatively high wholesale prices in the domestic market, exporters are reluctant to sell the remaining quantities abroad.

India is the biggest pomegranate producer in the world, with 276,000 ha of planted area and production of 3.10M MT in 2022. Adverse weather reduced the volume of fresh pomegranate in traditional regions of Maharashtra and Karanataka, while the quantities from emerging areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat in western India were satisfactory. COVID-19 has been a considerable challenge for traders and farmers in India, while at the same time, pomegranates gained popularity due to their health benefits. Besides European and Middle Eastern markets, the US and Australia reopened for pomegranate import from India in the previous year.

Share of India's Export Destinations

                                                                    Source: Tridge

In October 2018, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) restricted pomegranate arils from India due to a detection of an Oriental fruit fly larva in a commercial shipment of pomegranate arils. Aril is the edible part of pomegranate fruit that represents 50–70 % total weight of the fruit and is in high demand in the US. The import of whole pomegranates from India was still permitted if the fruits were treated. At the beginning of 2022, the export of pomegranate arils was allowed starting from April due to improved phytosanitary conditions from India's NPPO (National Plant Protection Organisation). The US is one of the critical markets for India's fresh pomegranate exports, with the highest growth of 482.44% from 2016-2021.

Logistics have been challenging for the past 24 months due to the post-COVID-19 disruptions and increased freight costs. The war in Ukraine has further increased input costs, which means exporters and clients have to absorb some of these costs. Although pomegranate seasonality spans throughout the year, the primary export peak months are August and September. The 'Bhagwa' variety is one of India's most harvested and exported pomegranate varieties.

Due to heavy rains in the early stage of fruit development, the overall size of fruits is smaller, affecting the offer of bigger sizes not available in the early season. India’s main competitors, Egypt and Türkiye, offered a larger caliber, while pomegranate from India differentiated itself with higher juice content, more suitable for the processing industry.

Source: Tridge

Based on Tridge data, in India, the average wholesale price of fresh pomegranates was USD 1.20/kg in W2 of January 2023, which is relatively high, meaning traders are less motivated to export the remaining quantities. Due to pomegranates' nutritional value and health benefits, the domestic consumption of pomegranates in India is high. In 2021, the amount of fresh pomegranate exported was just 28,2789 MT. Export figures for 2022 are expected to be similar to the previous year, albeit due to lesser production. Traders are hoping that increased demand for pomegranate arils will push export up in 2023 due to the reopening of the US market.

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