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More Indians going nuts over dry fruits, Retail News, ET Retail

Kolkata | New Delhi: Consumption of dry fruits increased 25% in 2023, the most in five years, as consumers have become more health conscious after the pandemic and turned to these rich sources of minerals and vitamins known to help improve immunity, traders in Mumbai and Delhi’s Khari Baoli market said.

Consumers who used to typically have dry fruits occasionally are now spending more on them and have become regular buyers, boosting overall demand, they said. “There is a surge in consumption of dry fruits this year… The supply side is smooth, and prices have remained stable, which is attracting the consumers to have more dry fruits,” said Vijay Bhuta, president of the Mumbai Dry Fruits and Dates Merchants Association. “Awareness about the healthy properties of dry fruits has increased post Covid.”

In fact, demand has seen a spike in the last few days, after the government issued an advisory on a new Covid subvariant and reports of a surge in infections in several states, traders said. Nearly 80% of local demand for dry fruits is met through imports. Almonds and walnuts are the top-selling dry fruits in the country.

Almond consumption has grown with more Indians identifying eating of the nutrient-rich crunchy nut that is packed with protein, fibre, Vitamin E and antioxidants with a healthy lifestyle. According to figures from the ministry of commerce and industry, almond imports totalled $531.06 million during the April-October period, or the first seven months of this fiscal year.

Traders predict imports in fiscal 2024 to significantly surpass the FY23 figure of $1.01 billion. Prior to the pandemic, in FY20, almond imports had totalled $874.67 million.

India imported walnuts valued at $64.91 million in the first seven months of this fiscal year, already surpassing the imports of $63.29 million in the entire previous fiscal year ended on March 31, 2023. Prior to the pandemic, in FY20, India’s total walnut imports of the heart- and gut-healthy dry fruit were valued at $69.38 million.

Walnut imports will cross $85 million this fiscal year, Bhuta said, adding, “The demand is robust.” The US has become a top supplier of almonds and walnuts to India, he said.

A report from the US Department of Agriculture in October said the country’s almond and walnut crops were each forecast to climb 1%. It also predicted American almond exports to rise 6% and walnut shipments to jump 15%, with India being one of the largest importers.

Afghanistan’s share down
Vikas Bansal, general secretary of the Indian-Afghan Chamber of Commerce, said the US now accounts for nearly 70-80% of the dry fruit imports of India. The share of Afghanistan, which was another major supplier, has come down. “Import of dry fruits has dwindled from Afghanistan as their quality does not match with the US,” he said. “And, dry fruits from Iran are too costly.”

Sanjay Sharma, a wholesaler in Delhi’s Khari Baoli dry fruit market, the largest in the country, said there is strong demand for cashew nuts as well.

Meanwhile, Iranian pistachio prices have been soaring since the beginning of 2023, due to a fall in water availability for the crop in that country. Dry fruit traders said wells have dried up and that production in Iran’s key Kerman region could suffer as a result.

Pistachio imports totalled $120.13 million in the first seven months of this fiscal year. In FY20, total imports were $173.84 million.

Dry fruits vs fresh fruits
Prices of almonds and walnuts have remained steady, helping boost demand, even as some key fresh fruits have become costlier.

“Instead of apples, whose price has risen this year, people are having almonds.

The price of a kg of almonds is ₹600. A family of four can have 100 gm of almonds per day, which is more pocket-friendly,” Bansal said.

One kg of good-quality walnut costs ₹1,000-1,300. The price of apples from Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir have surged this year due to a crop loss after heavy rain during cultivation.

A 25 kg box of apples this year costs ₹2,500 compared with ₹1,700 last year, said Apple Growers’ Association of India president Ravinder Chauhan.

Bhupesh Gupta, owner of 53-year-old Bellanuts Dry Fruits at Delhi’s Karol Bagh, said footfall has further increased in the past few days following the reports of Covid cases. “Almond is the most preferred dry fruit among customers,” he said.

  • Published On Dec 30, 2023 at 09:01 AM IST

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