Maharashtra raisin producers take price hit despite good season

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Published: May 21, 2016 6:04:25 AM

After a brief scare in April when a short spell of rains affected the quality of raisins in Maharashtra, manufacturers continue to find themselves hit hard despite good production in the state.

After a brief scare in April when a short spell of rains affected the quality of raisins in Maharashtra, manufacturers continue to find themselves hit hard despite good production in the state. Raisin producers complain that they are not getting good rates and traders continue to manipulate the market leaving little in the hands of farmers.

According to Subhash Arve, president, Maharashtra State Grape Growers Association (MGGA), who looks after the Sangli region — the biggest raisin producing region in Maharashtra — production has picked up after the spell of rains in April to around 2 lakh tonnes in the state. But raisins are selling at R100-150 per kg in wholesale markets. Top-quality raisins, which barely constitute 50-10% of the total production, are selling in the range of R200-225 per kg.

Arunbhai Mansuri, president of the Nashik Raisin Producers Association, says for reasons unknown to farmers, there seems to be little demand in the market for raisins. As a result, the pick-up of the commodity has been affected, he said. Production costs are higher and the farmers are just not able to cover their costs, he said.

According to Mahesh Kharade, a raisin producer in Tasgaon — one of the main raisin-producing regions — and a member of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, it takes 4 kg of grapes to produce 1 kg of raisins. Unless the farmer gets around R150 per kg, he is not able to cover the production costs and therefore a minimum support price is needed for raisins, he said. Kharade said that the although the season is good and more than 65 cold storage warehouses in Sangli are full this season, there is no demand in the market and plenty of volatility exists. The same clutch of traders dominate Sangli, Tasgaon and Pandharpur and manipulate prices, giving little to farmers.

The Sanghatana recently held a meet in Tasgaon to discuss issues related to raisins and says that the state needs to popularise raisins through campaigns on the lines of those run to promote eggs. Raisins should also be made part of mid-day meals in schools since it has tremendous nutritional value, he said.

According to Manoj Mali, the total raisin trade in the country annually exceeds R1,500 crore and of this, around R100 crore ends up as exports. Raisins in Sangli command a good price in the range of R200-525 per kg. This is because farmers here grow grapes for raisin production. In other regions, raisins end up as a by-product, the remains of the grapes which do not find a good market. Because of this, there is a huge difference in the quality to the extent that raisins produced in Nashik get rates of R70-160 per kg. More than 45,000 farmers are associated with raisin production in Sangli and the region gets raisins from Karnataka, Bijapur, Nagpur and border regions in the state. Around 65 cold storage units are located in Sangli and a cluster has also been formed by farmers in the region to encourage raisin production, he says. In Nashik, a proposal to establish a raisin cluster worth R14.80 crore is still gathering dust despite an approval by the state government.

Abhishek Bhandari of the Pimpalgaon Sangh says that since there is no wedding season in May and June, there is less demand in the market. Green raisins are selling for R90-140 per kg and golden yellow raisins are selling between R70-110 per kg, he said. The market is likely to pick up at a later stage. Maharashtra produces around 1.5 lakh tonnes of raisins.

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