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After facing a 40 per cent dip in production last year due to heavy rains, grape growers in Maharashtra are confident of a good season this year. The remaining crop, they say, is of good quality and would be accepted in export markets, as the weather in the later half of last year was conducive.
But as most growers are eyeing export markets, grapes are likely to be costlier in the domestic market. Manikrao Patil, president of the Nashik branch of the Grape Growers Association of Maharashtra, said domestic markets might face a 10-15 per cent shortfall in supply, which would keep prices on the higher side. In Nashik, the current price of grapes is Rs 120 per kg, and growers are hopeful that the price will decline, and settle in the Rs 60-80 per kg range.
Patil said grape growers were optimistic about meeting the export target of 8,000 containers — a single container holds around 1,200 tonnes of grapes. “While the yield will certainly be less this year, the quality of the produce is good and we are hopeful that majority of it will land in the overseas markets,” he said.
Last year, heavy rains in September had taken a toll on the vineyards, and grape cultivators had suffered losses due to water logging. Since then, climatic conditions have been favourable for the crop and growers have reported a good yield. Nashik has around 2 lakh hectares of land under viticulture, and most farmers prefer exporting their produce as they get higher returns in international markets.
On an average, the realisation from export markets for farmers is almost twice that of the domestic markets. Last year, India had seen the export of over 2.06 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of grapes, a slight dip from year’s 2.5 lakh MT of exports. This year, other than the traditional European Union markets, growers are also targeting markets in Canada and the US. While some ‘token consignments’ were sent to these markets last year, grape growers hope to increase their footprint there, said Patil. This year, the first consignment for Russia is expected to leave Indian shores by January 15, but the real boost in the markets will take place at the end of the month.