Incessant rains and hailstorms in Nashik —the wine capital of India—and other parts of Maharashtra last week has sent over 40 wineries in Maharashtra scrambling for cover. The crops sowed in over 3,000 hectares of land in the region have been completely destroyed in the recent torrential rain.
After excessive heat and early summer, Nashik was hit by unseasonal rains in the last couple of days causing excessive damage to grape farming. It is difficult to ascertain the exact damage to the grape production especially in Maharashtra.
Maharashtracontributes about 90% of the country’s total grape output. Talking to Moneylife, Abijit Kabir, managing director of Indus Vineyards said, “Wine manufacturers in Maharashtra will now have to brace themselves for a lean phase as unseasonal rains have dampened our sprits. Wine is a sunshine industry because every vineyard in India undergoes an uncomfortable cycle, with unpredictable things happening at regular intervals like unseasonal rains and pest attacks.”
Vineyards will suffer from lower realisation this year due to poor demand from domestic and international markets. Grape growers have resorted to delayed harvest and prices are anywhere between Rs35-Rs55 per kg. The prices can shoot up depending on supply shortage. Once the grape arrival starts in full swing after December, the prices might come down to Rs30 per kg, which is an optimal realisation, but anything above that will hit the vineyards badly.
Maharashtra produces 18 lakh tonnes of grapes. But the acreage under grape cultivation had gone down by over 15% last year as most farmers turned towards fresh fruit cultivation.
There are approximately 40 wineries in Maharashtra with a total production of over 7 million litres annually and valued at over Rs400 crore. Over 8 lakh wine cases are sold every year of which sparkling wines consists of over 50,000 cases.
According to the figures available with the State Excise Department, in 2005, the annual production of wine in the country was estimated to be over 8 million litres, out of this over 5 million litres was produced in Maharashtra alone. This is quite a small fraction compared to world’s annual production of over 35,000 million litres.
According to Mr Kabir, grape growing is highly capital intensive. About 80% of wine consumption in the country is concentrated in four major cities—Mumbai (40%), Delhi (30%), Bengaluru (10%) and Goa (10%).
Inspite of tropical climate, faulty storage and transport facilities are some of the problems of the wine industry in India. Other impediments are hostile rules for domestic marketing of wines and high excise tariff barriers.
—Vidyut Kumar Ta firstname.lastname@example.org