Unseasonal rain causes havoc for grape farmers
Alekh Angre 30 November 2010

About 30-40% of the grape crop is estimated to have been damaged in grape-growing areas of Maharashtra, compounding the wine industry’s problems

Unseasonal rain showers have damaged crops in many parts of Western India. Much of this loss has been in Maharashtra where onions, soybeans and grapes have suffered seriously. Grape growing areas such as Nashik, Sangli and Baramati have been particularly affected with up to 30-40% of the crop destroyed, according to industry experts.

 "This year too, the post-monsoon, unseasonal rain has caused havoc in the grape-growing regions of Maharashtra. A large part of the crop has been destroyed and the Downey mildew if not controlled will affect the quality of whatever remains," said Subash Arora of the Indian Wine Academy.

Mr Arora feels that growers have little hope of getting better prices for what remains of the crop, to be able to make up for the losses. The prices could be as much as 30-40% from last year, he said.

Rajesh Jadhav, secretary, All India Wine Producers' Association, said that the wine industry has been through a liquidity crunch in the past two years and the unseasonal rain will add to the problem. "About 30-40% of the grape crop has been destroyed. Already, most of the wineries have unsold stock of wine due to lack of demand. Grape farmers are faced with poor demand and now the rain has caused further losses," Mr Jadhav said.

The grape crushing season begins around February every year and the prices of grape wine are also determined at the same time. With only a few wineries buying the grapes, grape farmers will have to settle for lower prices.

"Around 65 of the existing 70 wineries in Maharashtra are owned by small farmers who also grow grapes. Since all of them are already stocked with unused wine, there is very little demand. The other wineries are owned by corporate and have their own grape farms. Even if they buy from small farmers it is on an agreement basis, which doesn't get the farmers much revenue," Mr Jadhav explained.

It is a little early to determine the supply and price of wines in the market. Some information should be available when the crushing season begins.

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