With no buyers in sight, the growers are forced to leave their fruit which is ready for harvesting on the grapevines itself.
The current lockdown in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic has hit grape growers in Maharashtra hard. Grape growers from the state are seeking a loan waiver and grants to overcome financial distress, said Kailash Bhosale, treasurer, Maharashtra Grape Growers Association (MGGA).
With no buyers in sight, the growers are forced to leave their fruit which is ready for harvesting on the grapevines itself. And those who are now considering processing these grapes into raisins find that the rates of chemicals which includes dipping oil (sulphur potassium carbonate) have gone up and are in short supply. As a result, 50 litres of dipping oil which was earlier available at Rs 8,000-8,500 is now available at Rs 11,000 and a box of dipping oil which was earlier available at Rs 24 is now available between Rs 2-35.
Bhosale said that the marketing of grapes has been badly affected due to the outbreak of Covid-19. Last year same time, grape exports had touched 7,893 containers which is around 1,05,965 tonne while this year, the exports have gone down to 6,110 containers which is around 81,810 tonne, he said. There is a gap of nearly 1,733 containers which is around 24,155 tonne, he said.
The area under grape cultivation in Maharashtra is around 3,50,000 acre across Nashik, Sangli and Solapur.
Nearly one lakh acres of grape cultivation has been affected due to the Covid-19 outbreak, he said, adding that previously the extended monsoon had affected another one lakh acres.Grape growers are only getting Rs 10 to Rs 15 per kg due to the outbreak and those farmers who had already sent containers to markets find that these have been closed due to Coronavirus fears and have remained unsold, he said.
One of the remaining one lakh acres, growers estimate that they may manage to sell grapes from barely 25000 acres. Harvesting remains in 30,000 to 35000 acres in Nashik, 10,000 to 15000 acres in Sangli, and 20000 to 25000 acres in Solapur. Therefore, farmers are looking at processing the grapes from 75000 acres to 80,000 acres to raisins and these are in addition to the regular raisin processors, he said.
Moreover, the cold storage for grapes are full and have another 300-400 containers and exporters have stopped packaging of these grapes. The shortage of dipping oil has hit these grape growers hard and in the absence of shade nets, they are drying out the grapes without the use of any dipping oil , Bhosale said. The pack for storing raisins are in short supply as well and are available only after 5-6 days of making advance payments, some grape growers said.