Unseasonal rain and inclement weather in the wake of cyclone Ockhi have severely impacted grape farms in Maharashtra, one of the largest grape producers in the country. Grape farmers claimed that due to inclement weather, production of the crop was already down this year. The sudden change in weather on Tuesday and unseasonal rains further affected the crop with farmers claiming that it caused losses and would push up the price of the fruit for local consumers.
The grape season in Maharashtra begins from the middle of December and the fruit is available till May, by keeping the produce in cold storage. The peak season is February-March. Farmers claim the standing crop of grapes, which was to be sent to the market, has been severely affected due to rains. “The unseasonal rain caused the skin of grapes to split. These were produce to be sent to the market right now. The rain damaged the fruit and it will be hard to find takers for them,” Zameer Shaikh, a grape farmer from Yevla in Nashik district, said.
Total grape production in India is between 25-30 lakh metric tonne, and Maharashtra contributes nearly 80 per cent. Nashik, Sangli, Solapur, Pune, Ahmednagar, Satara and Osmanabad are the major grape producing districts, with an area of 4 lakh acre under cultivation. Nashik has the highest, 1.75 lakh acre, and accounts for 90 per cent of the grape exports from Maharashtra.
Nashik district received 125.5 mm of rain on Tuesday due to the impact of Ockhi. “The weather has been unstable this year. The late withdrawal of monsoon had earlier affected crops in the region with productivity dipping. The first phase of crop that enters the market was almost ready but rains on Tuesday spoiled matters,” Keshav Kakad, who owns a grape farm in Nashik district, said.
Kakad said that before the rains, farmers were selling their produce to traders at Rs 50 to Rs 70 per kg for the domestic market and Rs 70-90 for the International market. The said price ensured that retail prices across the country remained stable at Rs 110-130.
However, after Tuesday’s rains, Kakad says farmers will suffer. “I am not sure whether traders will be willing to buy damaged crop. It will create a shortage in the market, which will hit farmers and also ensure that buyers end up paying more for the fruit,” Kakad said.