Coronavirus lockdown: Farmers in Pune, Sangli drying grapes on trees to get raisins

Updated: Apr 20, 2020, 19:40 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

With the lockdown and rain playing havoc on tonnes of produce, some farmers in Pune and Sangli are drying grapes on the vine, a never-used method, to turn them into the higher-priced dryfruit

Farmer Rohit Chavan shows the grapes he is drying on the vines at his Indapur farm
Farmer Rohit Chavan shows the grapes he is drying on the vines at his Indapur farm

Farmers in Maharashtra continue to be troubled by the lockdown. But some are setting an example for others. Grape farmers from Pune and Sangli, who, too, have no market for their produce which otherwise yields between Rs 20 and Rs 35 per kg, are now drying the grapes on the vines itself, as this might yield more produce in the form of raisins (Rs 150-  Rs 200 per kg). This is a novel method adopted by grape growers in Pune and Sangli, with the assistance of the National Research Centre for Grapes (NRCG), Pune, which is under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

'Dried-on-the-vine'
Rohit Rajendra Chavan, 26, from Indapur, Pune holds a degree in MSc (Horticulture) and always wanted to assist his father in farming. This year with no market or exports, 210 tonnes of grapes ready for harvest spread on 80 acres of land were staring at Chavan, who had no clue what to do with them. He contacted the director of NRCG and with their help, is trying the concept of 'dried-on-the-vine' grapes. The NRCG is advising farmers to go for this technique instead of facing 100 per cent losses due to the sudden rain and lockdown. Farmers have always focused on fresh grapes and dried very little after harvesting. But this time, they are attempting to save their entire produce by turning them into both green and black raisins.

Drying bunches of green and black grapes on the vines
Drying bunches of green and black grapes on the vines

Chavan said, "I am trying the 'dried-on-the-vine' method for the first time, wherein the entire harvest of grapes is left on the vine and turned into raisins. The fresh grapes are of three types, T1,T2 and T3 type which yield anywhere from around Rs 20 to Rs 35 per kg in the domestic market and anywhere around R65 and above in the export market, while the raisins will fetch anywhere above Rs 150 and up to Rs 250 in the export market."

He added, "The tips received from NRCG were helpful and luckily, even though it has been raining for the past few days, our grapes have not been affected."

Huge quantity of raisins
"Once the lockdown is lifted, I am sure, I will get a good market, as I will have raisins in large quantity. I am hopeful that I will be able to make some extra money this season, as I have a bank loan of over R2 crore to repay. This was taken to buy land (150 acres) and for watershed management for the entire farm land," he added.

Not helpful for few
However, every farmer is not fortunate like Chavan. Subhash Avre, 73, from Pograol, Tasgaon, Sangli said, "I have a grape farm spread over 25 acres, and per acre I have a produce of 12 to 14 tonnes. I have kept only 50 tonnes of produce on the vine to dry but due to the lockdown and no market, we will incur heavy losses."

"I have already availed a bank loan of Rs 75 lakh to cultivate grapes, hoping we could make some money. Grapes yield extra money, but this season we have missed out making anything extra, as the season will end on May 10 and the lockdown will last until May 3," Avre further added.

'Such techniques attention'
Speaking to mid-day, Dr Anand Kumar Singh, deputy director general, Horticultural Science Division, ICAR, Ministry of Agriculture, Delhi said, " During the lockdown, grape farmers in Maharashtra were facing a tough time to dispose of mature grapes. With no other viable options they tried the indigenous technology of ICAR-NRCG, Pune, to convert grapes intro raisins on vines itself. Farmers were initially reluctant, but now, after about 12-15 days they are happy with the results."

Dr Singh added, "Technniques like this are very handy but often don't get attention in good time. However, they are proving their worth in such a distressful time."

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