Though the start of the export season for Indian grapes turned out to be pretty good, the heavy influx of Chilean grapes into the European market has hit international rates hard, making the season’s close tough for exporters. According to top officials of the All Indian Grape Exporters’ Association, although there is good movement, and exports from the country to Europe are higher compared to the previous season, rates have dropped almost 50% this season to Rs 35 per kg. Last year, Indian exporters were getting Rs 65 per kg the same time. Europe is one of India’s biggest export markets for grapes. This season, the country has exported around 1.13 lakh tonne to Europe compared to 84,384 tonne last season.
Gagandada Khapre, president of All India Grape Exporters’ Association, said that on paper exports seem higher but the rates began dropping from mid-March when Chilean grapes suddenly entered the European market. Chile is usually not a serious exporter to Europe but this season with the drop in the American dollar rates, it turned towards Europe, resulting in a rate competition, he said. Exporters had hoped that this would be a temporary phase but this did not happen and the onslaught of Chilean grapes in the European market continued.
At the start of the season, Indian exporters were getting Rs 100 per kg and by the end of the season the rates dropped to Rs 35 per kg, he said. This has led to a drop in domestic rates as well to Rs 17 per kg. This season, from March onwards, Indian exporters slowed down consignments for a while and by then exports had already crossed the 50,000-tonne mark. Some 40 lakh tonne grapes have been produced this season. The total production cost for grapes comes up to Rs 25,000 per acre and and for the export market the cost doubles, industry observers said. Around 1.92 lakh tonne had been the peak of Indian grape exports and the country is likely to cross this mark this year due to good monsoon and good weather in the growing regions.
According to senior officials from the horticulture department, there is a huge demand for black grapes in China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Till date, exports to the Netherlands have been maximum to the tune of 492 tonne, followed by Italy at 32 lakh tonne.
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In 2010, Indian grape exports had faced a setback, with EU reluctant to accept Indian table grape consignments as chlormequat chloride – a plant growth regulator – was detected in excess of the prescribed maximum residue level (MRL). In 2009, EU had come up with new regulations on pesticides, raising the chemicals level to be monitored from 98 to 167. Unaware of the changed rules, Indian exporters who did not meet the new standards faced the rejection.
Indian grapes began to find favour after 2014 when a record 1.92 lakh-tonne grapes were exported by Indian traders to around 94 countries. Of this, Europe and UK together accounted for the largest share of 65,000-75,000 tonne. Since 2004, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority has made registration of vineyards compulsory for farmers wanting to export their produce to promote quality grape production. The areas under grape plantation for export has increased 30.69% during the current season. Around 38,128 grape farmers have registered a total area of 56,200 acre for export in 2016-17.