Saturday, June 23, 2018

Fruits, Fruits And More Fruits

Entrepreneur KP Musthafa talks about the benefits of imported fruits 

Photos: K. Musthafa by Manu R Maveli; the new store 

By Shevlin Sebastian

One morning KP Musthafa was standing outside his newly-opened store 'Frootree' in Kozhikode having a chat with his friend. Suddenly a middle-aged woman came up and stood near the entrance for a few moments. She was hesitating to enter.

Finally, Musthafa said, “Madam, is there any problem?”

The woman said, “I was wondering whether the fruits are okay, and don't have pesticides.”

Musthafa said, “Madam, all these fruits have been imported, after stringent checking. There is nothing to worry.”

The woman smiled as a few tears rolled down her face.

As Musthafa looked shocked, the woman said, “My son is in Stage 4 cancer. I wanted to buy some good fruits for him.” Musthafa nodded and held her hands.

Yes, indeed, Musthafa's shop deals in imported fruits only. He gives a break-up: green leaves are from Holland; passion fruit from Thailand; lemons and oranges from Spain; plums and avocados from New Zealand. “We buy a lot of fennels, baby marrow, baby carrot and asparagus from South Africa,” says Musthafa. “The grapes are from the USA, while mushrooms are from Holland.”

As for the most popular fruits, he says it is oranges and apples. But there are accusations that some apples, especially with the brand name of Washington have been waxed so that it can shine and last longer. “This waxing is safe,” says Musthafa. “The produce goes through stringent tests in the USA before it is allowed to be exported.”

Asked why imported fruits are so costly, Musthafa says, “Sometimes, there is 100 per cent duty. For apples, it is 50 per cent. Hence, the retail price of a Washington apple starts at Rs 200 per kilo and goes up to Rs 250.”

The most expensive are raspberries, cranberries and strawberries. Sometimes, these are being sold at Rs 2000 per kg and are imported from Mexico, Morocco, and the USA.

But importing to Kozhikode has not been an easy affair. Last year Musthafa imported dates from Saudi Arabia. It remained in the Kozhikode airport for 18 days because of various Customs and other difficulties. Overall. Rs 2.5 lakh was the extra expense for the entrepreneur. This included Rs 1.3 lakh for the refrigerated storage fees, while Rs 38,000 was the test charges to find out whether the product is good. Then there was customs duty and other charges.

So Musthafa has stopped importing into Kerala. Instead, he imports to Bangalore or Hyderabad and brings it by road to Kozhikode. “But if the material is from Mumbai I can bring it by domestic flight and there is no problem because it has gone through one checking,” he says. “But the expenses go up.”

As for his customers, most belong to the upper middle classes and are thus able to afford the steep prices. Plus, there is the charm of fruits. “I have yet to meet a person who sees a fruit and does not have the desire to eat it,” says Musthafa. “They are buying for their children and for them also. In every fruit or leaf, there are health benefits.”

Take the basil leaf. “This is good for cough, throat and chest congestion,” says Musthafa. “The leaves can be made into a gravy. You can also eat it directly. Also, many cardiologists recommend cranberries as it is good for the blood.”

But for Musthafa personally, what he likes the most is the juice of wheatgrass. “It has a lot of protein,” he says. “And it helps reduce sugar. There are wheatgrass tablets in the US. It is that good.”

Meanwhile, Musthafa is working hard to set up numerous ‘Frootree’ filling stations. These will be set up at various places on the National Highway.

“When you are travelling on the highway you don't need to get down,” says Musthafa. “You drive to the filling station and buy juice, snacks, tea, sandwiches or burgers. It is like going to a petrol station. Buy the food and carry on in your journey.”

Soon, there will be an app which can be downloaded. “Say, you are travelling from Ernakulam to Kozhikode, you can identify an outlet, place the order from the menu in advance, and come at the right time and collect it,” says Musthafa. “There is no time-wasting. These will be one every 50 kms. It will start soon.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode)

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