The fresh coronavirus lockdown in European countries has cast a shadow of uncertainty on India’s grapes exports, the season for which is set to start next week. While orders have come for exports, most are uncertain about how the season would pan out as a greater part of Europe goes under an extended lockdown in fear of the new strain of the coronavirus.
The United Kingdom and other countries of the European Union have been a prized market for Indian grapes given the surety of payment there. Indian grape growers deal with both supermarkets as well as wholesale traders, with the former cornering 60 per cent of exports. Almost 80 per cent of Indian exports originate from the vineyards in Maharashtra. Farmers command better prices for export grapes than those meant for the domestic markets.
Jagannath Khapre, president of Grapes Exporters Association of India, said the reinforced lockdown in the United Kingdom has cast a shadow right at the start of the export season. “The season is set to start on January 15, our members have orders but we do not know how the season will pan out,” he said.
Exports destined for the supermarket chains or organised retailers, he said, would not face any problem in terms of sales but the unorganised retailers might report disruption. “Like the lockdown in India, the unorganised retailers would be out of business and thus the grapes headed for them would not find a market,” he said.
Indian exporters are paid 50 per cent of the transaction amount when the provisional invoices are raised and the remaining amount is paid after delivery. Last year, 95,000 tonnes of grapes had gone to the European Union markets, which was a decrease from the 1.25 crore tonnes exported in 2018-19. This year, 44,000 farmers have registered in the grapenet program, which allows tracing of the produce right at the farmers end.
Meanwhile, Vilas Shinde, chairman and managing director of the Nashik-based Sahyadri Farmers Producers Company, said the lockdown would not have a very drastic effect on the exports. “Unlike last year, vaccines are available now, and as vaccinations will increase life will come back to normal. We do not feel there would be large-scale disruptions in the markets,” he said. Shinde, however, said the cost of shipment has increased which is surely going to harm prospects. “We have requested the shipping companies not to increase the bills as otherwise the industry would collapse,” he said.