In a first of its kind, apricots from Ladakh were consigned to Dubai from Leh, via Mumbai. The export consignment was supported by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), which has been working to establish an export value chain for Ladakh apricots.
Nutritional Value of Apricot
The orange-reddish fruit, Apricot belongs to the family Rosaceae. The temperate fruit is consumed in fresh, dried, and frozen forms and used for the preparation of jam, jellies, and marmalades, pulp, juices, nectars, and extruded products.
Furthermore, apricot kernels are considered an excellent source of quality oil, used for cooking purposes, production of cosmetic products, benzaldehydes, and active carbon.
In terms of nutrition, apricot is rich in carbohydrates and a good source of fibers, minerals, and vitamins (A, C, K, E). Fiber is important for the body for easy digestion. Soluble fiber lowers blood cholesterol, maintain blood sugar level and helps in reducing body weight.
According to studies, apricots contain varying amounts of essential minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, and selenium. Ladakh Apricots have a unique soothing taste and texture with high sugar content and total soluble solids.
According to studies, apricots help in preventing cancer due to the low fat in it and are good for patients with high blood pressure as it is sodium-free. Apricots are also good for heart health and skin.
Tourism, the basis of livelihood
Tourism is an important industry in Ladakh as it provides employment opportunities and generates income on a large scale. The tourism industry has a direct influence on the socio-economic life of people here as a large number of people are engaged in tourism-related activities like transport, hospitality, catering services, cottage industry, and more.
Since its opening for the tourist in 1974, Leh has registered an increasing number of tourists credited to its landscape, culture, tradition, and environment, etc.
Agriculture in Ladakh
Ladakh due to its cold climatic condition is great for the production of apricots and apples. Raktsey Karpo, apricots with white seed coat has been identified as a unique genetic resource of Ladakh and is also the world’s sweetest apricots. Seabuckthorn, an ideal plant for cold deserts, can be grown on a large scale for income generation and ecological benefits. The resource is yet to be tapped fully in the region.
Leh, Ladakh has huge potential for agriculture, however, it faces irrigation shortfalls. Around 70% of the population directly or indirectly depends on the agriculture sector, with organic agriculture being an inherent strength of the place.
Wheat and barley are the major crops cultivated in the district. Also, Ladakh has immense scope of vegetable production. Ladakh is known for the production of off-season vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, however, it faces the difficulty of poor market linkages.
Boost to Agriculture & Export
The first commercial transshipment is set to boost agricultural and food product export from Ladakh, a heavily tourism-dependent Union Territory. UT of Ladakh produces several varieties of apricots out of which four to five varieties are taken up for commercial cultivation and export opportunities exist for these varieties.
Opens scope for other produce: The export of apricots from the UT also opens up the potential of shipment of other temperate fruits and organic products from the region to Middle-east countries.
An advantage to locals: The shipped apricots were harvested, cleaned, and packed by local entrepreneurs who were provided technical assistance by APEDA on the requirements of the export value chain. Export initiatives like these not only put the place on exporting map of India but also support the locals and farmers dependent on agriculture and allied activities by providing an opportunity to earn a livelihood.
Ladakh produces approximately 15,789 MT of apricots. The export of apricot is a sign of hope for other food produce from the UT. There have been repeated orders for shipment of Ladakh Apricots to various other destinations of Middle Eastern countries such as Oman and Qatar.
APEDA plans to give a boost to exports of agricultural produce from Ladakh, which would further enhance farmers’ and entrepreneurs’ income from the region. It has been working with officials of the horticulture, agriculture, commerce, and industry departments of Union Territory of Ladakh and Defence Institute of High-Altitude Research to work out a comprehensive plan of action.
It is also working towards enhancing the production of fruits with medicinal values including seabuckthorn, apricot, and organic produce while also introducing a traceability system, capacity-building of farmers, and value addition of products.
APEDA is also working towards providing special assistance for branding and promotion of Ladakhi products, especially sea buckthorn which is rich in Vitamin C, omega, and other essential nutrients. Further, it aims to build and brand Ladakh as an ‘organic’ region.