The state-run Himachal Pradesh Horticultural Produce Marketing and Processing Corp (HPMC), which is mainly into marketing apple juice concentrate, is using worn out machinery and its unscientific collection often deteriorates the quality of fruits.
This fact came to light in a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report tabled in the state assembly last week.
The spoilage in fruit processing plants ranged between 1.73 and 8.50 per cent, which is worth Rs 27.35 lakh, from 2014 to 2017, which is a burden on the HPMC, it said.
The HPMC management admitted to the CAG that fruits were collected in an unscientific manner and also delays in transportation to processing plants result in deterioration of the quality of fruits.
The public sector undertaking procures the apples directly from farmers and produces juice concentrate that is used for fruit juices, nectars and drinks.
Companies that regularly buy apple concentrate from the HPMC are Parle Agro, Godrej Industries, Nestle, and Mohan Meakin Ltd.
The HPMC, which is facing tough competition from China in the apple juice concentrate market, incurred a loss of Rs 2.61 crore on the implementation of market intervention scheme due to, among others, the low yield of concentrate, apple juice, and apple spoilage.
Every year it also procures citrus fruits like kinnow and galgal through the market intervention scheme.
It runs two fruit processing plants -- Parwanoo and Jarol.
As per norms for juice extraction at the Jarol facility, it's 650 ml juice from one kg of apple. However, the juice extracted is ranged between 568 and 604 ml.
For producing one kg of apple juice concentrate, 9.5 kg to 10.5 kg and 11.5 kg to 12.5 kg of apples is required in Parwanoo and Jarol facilities, respectively.
The CAG observed that the processing plant in Parwanoo processed 13,780 tonnes of apple for production of 1,243 tonnes of apple juice concentrate.
There was excess consumption of 732 tonnes of apples whereas the excess consumption of apples at Jarol plant for production of 140 tonnes of juice concentrate was 33 tonnes as compared to the norms.
This resulted in less extraction of apple juice concentrate valuing Rs 82 lakh during 2014-17.
The auditor also picked holes in quality control.
Orange pulp and apple juice concentrate, valuing Rs 35.50 lakh, produced between February and October 2014 were lying unsold till March 2017.
As the products are perishable in nature, stock lying unsold has lost its shelf life and is unfit for human consumption, resulting in loss of Rs 35.50 lakh.
Himachal Pradesh is one of India's major apple-producing regions, with more than 2,00,000 families engaged in the cultivation of the fruit.
Superior apple grades like Royal Delicious, Red Chief, Super Chief, Oregon Spur, and Scarlet Spur start arriving in the markets in August and their harvesting continues till October.