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Grapes may not be sour for Maharashtra’s growers,wine makers this year

Decent rainfall,coupled with contract farming and govt policies,boosts wine production

Written by Garima Mishra | Pune |
December 16, 2011 3:10:07 am

After a bleak 2009 and 2010,Maharashtra’s sick wine industry is hopeful of some recovery this year.

The last two years saw the acreage of grapes being halved and almost 30 per cent of growers giving up on the wine variety of the crop for good. This year,however,the state looks set to produce 80 lakh litres of wine — from around 40 lakh litres in 2010.

“The overall production of wine in the past three years was unexpectedly bad due to various factors like weather,recession and unfavourable government policies. However,this year,the conditions have been favourable for both grape growers as well as winery owners. The supply and demand of the grapes are expected to match this year,” said Rajesh Jadhav,secretary,All India Wine Producers’ Association (AIWPA).

In 2009-2010,around 50 per cent of the crop was destroyed due to extended rainfall in November. “More than 30 per cent of grape farmers suffered such a severe setback that they completely gave up plantation and production of grapes. Since the overall wine production had taken a beating,there were no takers for wine grapes either,” said Jadhav.

“Till 2009,the total land used for cultivation of Maharashtra wine grape was around 10,000 acres. Currently,it is 5,000 acres,” said Neeraj Agarwal,senior vice-president,Vineyard Operations,Sula Wines.

This,says Agarwal,is in sync with the demand-supply given the number of wine grape growers and wineries in the state is concerned.

Many farmers,who continued with wine grape cultivation,took the setback as a lesson and tried their hands at contract farming.

Currently,under contract farming,on an average,the grapes are purchased from the farmers at the rate of Rs 30 to Rs 35 per kg. As the average cost is Rs 20 to Rs 25 per kg,the farmer can book an earning of Rs 10 to Rs 15 per kg. While the average price offered by the wineries for the white grapes is Rs 25 per kg,it is Rs 30 for the red grapes. A variety of the red grapes,Cavernet Sauvigron,is bought at Rs 35 per kg. At present,there are around 2,000 farmers who are into wine grape cultivation and there are 65 wineries in Maharashtra.

“In good climatic conditions,the farmer can easily make Rs 1 lakh per acre,” said Agarwal.

President ,AIWPA,Jagdish Holkar said a rehabilitation package,aimed at restructuring the entire wine industry,will be launched by the government within few weeks. The package will primarily reach out to the ‘sick units’ whose account status is poor as on June 30 2011. Under this plan,six per cent of the total loan interest borne by the winery will be shared by the government agencies. “For instance,if the winery has taken the loan at the rate of 11 per cent,it will have to repay only five per cent,the rest will be borne by the government agencies,” said Holkar. The package,Holkar added,will be for seven years.

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