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Nearly four years after being rejected by the European Union on account of pesticide residues, Indian grapes have begun to find favour again with European buyers. For the season 2014, a record 1.92 lakh tonne of grapes have been exported by Indian traders to around 94 countries, of which Europe and the UK together account for the largest share of 65,000 tonnes. Last year, exports were around 1.72 lakh tonne.
Jagannath Khapre, president, All India Grape Exporters Association, said the residue problem has been overcome by Indian exporters over the last couple of years. I dont think this will be an issue in the coming years, he told FE. Grape export to the EU had come down to 22,000 tonnes in 2010-11 due to the pesticide issue. Gradually, it increased, touching 56,000 tonnes in 2012-13. In 2010, the EU had stopped grape imports from India saying it has found excessive chemicals in them. Around 40,000 tonnes of grapes worth R300 crore shipped to various European countries were halted as they exceeded the maximum residue level of a chemical contaminant — chlormequat chloride — a plant growth regulator — was detected in excess of the prescribed maximum residue level (MRL).
In 2009, the EU had come up with new regulations on pesticides, raising the chemicals to be monitored from 98 to 167. Unaware of the changed rules, Indian exporters who did not meet the new standards, faced rejection. More than 90% of grapes were from Maharashtra and the balance from Andhra Pradesh.
According to Khapre, the government laboratories later conducted several tests of grapes and did not find any residue content, declaring the produce fit for European markets. However, several exporters who were affected by the rejection were unaware of the changes and it took some time for the trade to normalise. Indian grapes have to undergo around seven laboratory tests before being considered eligible for the European markets.
According to horticulture officials, grapes are now monitored for residues of 173 molecules. New markets such as Russia and China have also led to an overall growth in grape exports. For the last two years, grape exports to Russia have been growing. This year, exports to Russia may double in volume compared with the previous year. From February 2015 onwards, Indian grapes will also find buyers in Japan, Khapre said.
Besides the West Asia, grapes from India are popular in the Netherlands,