Proposal to import grape saplings hits hurdle in Maharashtra

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Published: October 16, 2015 12:35:02 AM

According to top officials, collecting these funds is a huge challenge and though farmers have shown interest in importing these varieties, getting the funds from them is quite difficult.

An ambitious proposal to import patented varieties of disease-resistant grape saplings by the Maharashtra State Grape Growers Association (MSGGA) and the All India Grape Exporters Association with help from the National Research Centre for Grapes (NRCG) has hit a minor hurdle. The cost of royalties for the patent varieties of table grapes amounts to around R40 crore, a sum which has to be collected from farmers with some financial assistance from the government as well. Also, five new varieties of disease-resistant grapes have been imported by the State Grape Growers Association from South Africa to improve the yield of the fruit in Nashik.

According to top officials, collecting these funds is a huge challenge and though farmers have shown interest in importing these varieties, getting the funds from them is quite difficult. NRC has been providing technical assistance in ensuring that the the raw material is disease-free, growing these in Indian conditions and testing these for desired characteristics and help in propagating these.

According to S D Sawant, director, NRCG, around 10 varieties have been targeted and talks have been in progress with a supplier who has demanded a lumpsum instead of royalties to be paid every year which is why the sum is so huge.

This project has been in the offing for three years and the associations are now seeking ways to raise funds through the formation of a new Grape Improvement Fund that could help farmers export at a cheaper cost.

“Grape exports contribute around R1,600 crore to the country’s forex and we have been trying to tell the government to contribute towards this effort since the funds are high,” he said. The government has, on the other hand, told grape growers to collect funds from farmers first. The patented variety of grapes has an improved shelf life and also gives better yield, Gagandada Khapre, president of the National Grape Exporters Association, said. Last year, the Nashik and Sangli regions of Maharashtra exported 1 lakh tonne of grapes to over 19 countries, including the maiden consignment to Russia.

Maharashtra accounts for nearly 98% of India’s total exports of grapes.The state produces about 21-22 lakh tonne of grapes, of which it exports about 18-19 lakh tonne. Major exporting nations are Netherlands, Russia, the UK, the UAE, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia.

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