Fate of Indian Grape Processing Board hangs in balance

By: |
Pune | Published: August 6, 2015 12:13:15 AM

The term of the 15-member Board ended in February and on March 31, the IGPB vacated its office housed in the Western Maharashtra Development Corporation building in Pune.

The Indian Grape Processing Board (IGPB) is currently clueless on whether it still exists or stands dissolved. IGPB vice-chairman Siraj Hussein and secretary Venkatesh Swarlu were transferred to other ministries earlier this year. The term of the 15-member Board ended in February and on March 31, the IGPB vacated its office housed in the Western Maharashtra Development Corporation building in Pune.

Although there has been no official communication from the Union ministry of food processing industries, there is no word on either the new incumbents or indeed the fate of the Board. Even the former chairman says he is not aware of the current position of the board.

Established in 2009, IGPB’s mandate was to address industry problems and help promote grape products. The board’s website is also not functional anymore.

Former chairman of the board Jagdish Holkar says in spite of several efforts made by the industry to keep the board afloat, the government has not been showing any interest.

Holkar, along with Sula Vineyards CEO Rajeev Samant, had met the Union food processing industries minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal at least a couple of occasions apprising her of the need for the continuity of the board. However, we did not meet with success, he said, adding that it is very sad that this has happened at a time when the industry has begun to gain recognition in the international market.

During the Board’s six active years, its initiatives included pushing for a uniform national wine policy, advocating single window clearances for setting up wine units, organizing events to promote the industry in India and abroad and even trying for survival packages for the sick units.

“We had also started the procedure for simplifying excise laws for wine in various states,” said Holkar, adding that this work is still incomplete.

Significantly, the likely dissolution of the board also raises a question over India’s membership at the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). India joined the OIV in July 2012 and became the 44th member of the organisation. The OIV is an inter-governmental organisation of a scientific and technical nature of recognized competence for its works concerning vines, wine, wine-based beverages, table grapes, raisins and other vine-based products and is based out of Paris.

Whether the annual membership charges of around Rs 14,000 are continued to be paid by the government also remains unclear. India continues to be a member of OIV through the board and the ministry of food processing industries as the membership is for governments only, Holkar said, adding that after the OIV membership, the next step for India was to join the WWTG (World Wide Trade Group) of Washington DC, informal grouping of industry representatives from wine-producing countries.

India had participated as an observer in an important meeting of WWTG in Washington. While the OIV membership helped India get access to the state-of-the-art scientific knowledge about vines, wines and grapes, WWTG members that include Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and the US would have helped India in trade, he pointed out. The group has the representatives of both the industry as well as the government.

As of now, the industry issues are being coordinated by the All India Wine Producers Association. AIWPA’s annual general meeting is slated to be held next week in Mumbai where this issue will come up for discussion, Holkar said.

There are around 110 wineries in India (including 72 in Maharashtra) with the industry size pegged at around R2,000 crore. The Indian wine industry has been growing at over 20% to touch approximately 10-11 million litres of wine production during 2014-15.

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