Maharashtra has got the Centre’s approval for around 30 mechanisation clusters in the grape growing regions...
Maharashtra has got the Centre’s approval for around 30 mechanisation clusters in the grape growing regions of the state. Each cluster encompasses an area of around 100 acres under grape cultivation and will enable groups of farmers to come together both for the purchase of farming equipment and for collective use of the equipment.
In Maharashtra, labour scarcity is forcing more and more grape growers turn towards mechanisation.
Ashok Gaikwad, president, Maharashtra State Grape Growers Association ( MSGGA), said three clusters in Nashik, Sangli and Solapur have already received the final go-ahead and funds for these will begin coming in soon.
Under this scheme, which falls under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana ( RKVY), the Centre will grant 50% subsidy for the purchase of farming equipment and the remaining funds will be collected from the farmers who either tie up with local banks for loans or put in their own money. Each cluster is eligible to receive funds to the tune of R1.06 crore for the purchase of equipment in the PPP mode, Gaikwad said. As many as 27 clusters are in the final approval stage, he said.
Labour is getting costly and is time consuming as well, Gaikwad told FE. The usage of mechanised equipment is not only helping farmers improve quality of the crop but enhances the taste of the fruit since the chemical use is reduced which also helps farmers monitor residues of the crop, he said.
At present around 375-odd machines are in use throughout the grape growing regions in the state, including Nashik, Sangli, Solapur and Pune. Several grape-growers have resorted to the use of hormone sprayers, chemical sprayers, electrostatic machines, fertiliser tracker dusters and electric scissors which not only save labour cost but time as well.
According to growers, they have been able to overcome 70% of the labour with the use of these machines. “In grape farming, there are two important stages, pruning and dipping, which has to be done on time. But it becomes difficult due to non-availability of labourers. Hence, we have started mechanisation of pruning and dipping. Grape-growers have started buying (individually and in groups) electrostatic machines which are very useful for both pruning and dipping,” Gaikwad said.
After mechanical pruning, spraying is done in the flowering stage. The berries, which get sprayed, grow properly and do not need manual pruning. We can get standard grape size of 18 mm by mechanical pruning, he said.
In case of manual pruning, it requires 10-12 labourers per acre for three-four days and that costs around R11,000-12,000 per acre. But, in case of mechanical pruning, it takes only 30 minutes for one acre and save around 30% of the cost. Grapes need three dippings in one season and it requires 10 labourers per acre. It is then completed in one-and-a-half days manually. But in case of mechanisation, there is no need of dipping, but requires spraying only and is accomplished in 30 minutes per acre.
According to Gaikwad, mechanisation is becoming more important with exports hitting a sweet spot. A record 1.92 lakh tonne of grapes were exported by Indian traders to around 94 countries for the season of 2014 and farmers are expecting a repeat of this success this year as well.