The Bhutanese learnt that vendors in the city and along highways are buying imported apples from the Centenary Farmers’ Market and selling them as locally grown apples to customers.
Dorji, a fruit vendor in Centenary Farmers Market said that most of the vendors who sell local apples buy imported apples from them, and their stock is mostly depleted after those vendors leave.
“They buy apples from us and sell them along the highways, as well as at the local goods section Centenary Farmers’ Market, where the vendors tout the apples as being locally grown. They buy apples from us for about Nu 200, then say that they are grown locally and sell them for Nu 250 to Nu 260. We have apples which come from different places and prices differ,” he said, adding that his apple comes from Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
Another fruit vendor Sonam, also said that vendors have also come to her stall to buy apples, which they then market as a local commodity.
“They’re removing the sticker from the apple and selling it to the people, according to what I’ve heard. People should be aware that apple season is currently closed. It begins in June. The real local apples on the market right now lack freshness and have an aged appearance,” she said.
Sonam also said, “My imported apples are sold, and the majority of those who come to buy in bulk are fruit vendors.”
She added that she heard that fruit vendors are blending locally grown apples with imported apples and selling them along highways. “The majority of vendors along the highway come to CFM and buy the imported apples, which they then mix and sell to customers as being “local.”,” she added.
Sangay Dorji, a regular customer who comes to CFM on a weekly basis said, “I went to CFM to buy apples, but the vendors told me that the apples sold locally by other vendors claiming that their apples are locally produced are currently imported, and that these were bought from them. Customers should not be duped by fruit vendors because if the fruit is grown locally, people would not bother to wash and eat it. Rather, they wipe it with a cloth and eat it.”
He said that imported fruits should be washed properly because in other countries such stickers are applied using wax- generated from honey bee. However, local traders use harmful adhesives, which are used for commercial purposes.
“These stickers are normally applied by manufacturers to make the eatables appear authentic and to raise extra money from them,” he said.
Another customer Pema said, “At the moment, I don’t believe local apples are new or juicy. When the apple is not in season, most farmers store it and sell it. Local apple is old based on its appearance.”
She said that nobody seems to care; vendors are selling and defrauding consumers, and buyers are purchasing apples without even asking where they came from.
“Many people want to eat fruits grown locally, but our vendors are deceiving us. Local apples have the same color, form, and freshness as imported apples at the moment, if you go to the stalls where they are sold. People who share the same country and natural resources should not deceive their own people,” she said, adding that local fruit vendors will say that the apple was purchased in Paro and Bjemina.
According to a BAFRA official, they’re testing the product’s protection, and it’s likely that people are mixing imported and local apples and selling.
“Since imported apples are more expensive, I don’t believe vendors would purchase the more expensive imported apples and market them as locally grown apples, which are less expensive,” he said.
However, a fruit vendor disagreed and said local apples currently tend to fetch a higher price on account of them being more organic. He said that imported apples, would have more chemicals sprayed on them unlike in Bhutan. It is also common practice for imported apples to have a layer of wax applied on them to keep the moisture in to retain their freshness which is something that Bhutanese apple growers do not do.
The apple season in the country starts from mid-June till October.