Poor grape yield sends state wineries in ferment

Wine lovers may have to shell out more for their favourite drink as winemakers are worried that low grape yield may drive up prices. The coming year may see a dip in wine production as a large number of grape farmers in the state, discouraged by low sales last year, have decided to take to growing table grapes, oenologists said.

Considering wine grapes to be a dead investment after incurring losses last year, grape growers uprooted their crop to supplant it with regular grapes consumed as fresh fruit. According to winemakers, more than 50 per cent of wine grape farmers in the state have already pulled up their crop.

Last year, due to erratic and sudden showers, about 40 per cent of the crop faced a major hit as the crop attracted diseases. Also, many wineries did not buy grapes from farmers, because of which crops lay rotting.

Low yield
After the month of NovemberĀ -- when pruning is usually doneĀ -- industry experts said the flow of wine grapes would suffer a setback in the coming year. Wineries in the state require at least 45,000 tonnes of grapes while the production has gone down by 20,000 tonnes.

"Grape growers who did not have any tie-up with wineries faced a major hit last year after wineries, which are facing a space crunch with surplus wine in stores, failed to lift the stock from them. Hence, many decided to uproot the yield this year as they claim it is not a profitable business," said Vijay Gadakh, president, All India Rajya Grape Producers Association. In Sangli district, the acreage of vineyard has fallen from 2,500 acres recently to 300 acres now.

"It is an alarming situation as the crop is of good quality this year but we fear that the stock available will not be sufficient for all. The current scenario seems to be bad. We hope that grape growers are able to meet the demand of the 75 wineries in the state," said Prashant Sankpal, managing director of Ritza Wine Private Limited and vice-president of Maharashtra Wine Producers' Association.

Sankpal said that if the demands are not met, the state has to import wine from neighbouring states, which might prove expensive, thereby leading to a price hike in wine next year. "The excise duty on importing grape is considerable and if imported it will cost a lot to winemakers," he added.

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