Grape farmers want Govt to import disease resistant varieties to help adhere with EU regulations

We were one of the first to tell you that the EU was set to make significant changes to the regulations on pesticide residue levels in grapes. For those who are yet to receive the update, EU wants to bring down the minimum residue level of chlormequat chloride from 0.05 parts per million to 0.01 per cent. The news is definitely not a welcome one for India as the Netherlands is the country’s top export market for grapes and as the fruit is a major export item. The Asian nation exported 1,56,218.34 MT of grapes worth Rs. 1,551.32 crores in 2015-16.

With the export of grapes now facing a dire future, farmers are being forced to use new disease resistant varieties. Varieties which farmers cannot afford as they need to be imported and entail high patent costs.

In 2010, the EU had made a similar change which led to the rejection of Indian grapes worth crores of rupees. This translated into a major financial setback for small growers and exporters. The trader-exporter counterparts got off comparatively lightly as they were capable of handling the resultant financial loss.

The Indian farmers more aware of the fallout of a change to residue levels have demanded at least 5 years to comply.

“The remains of CCC in soil will continue to express for some time in the fruit even if farmers stop its usage,” said a government official, who did not want to be identified.

The farmers want the government to hasten and import good foreign grape varieties as the indigenous varieties need more pesticides to sustain as they are highly prone to diseases.

Like mentioned previously, grapes are a key export commodity for India. Of India’s total fruit exports, grapes constituted about 40%. 90% of India’s grapes export is accounted for by Maharashtra.

The Maharashtra State Draksh Bagayatdar Sangh (association of grape growers) and the National Research Centre, Manjri have chosen 10 varieties, a high number from Spain for import. Farmers, however, are ready to pay only 30-40 crore as a one-time royalty. A proposal that patent holders are not keen on.

Former union minister Mr Sharad Pawar has requested the central and state governments to pitch in and import patented varieties as it scarce something farmers can afford.

A presentation will be made by officials on behalf of India to the EU during a meeting in September. Indian authorities and farmers are hopeful that EU will give India’s views serious thought.

Indian farmers are really keen on imported varieties such as they will not only help comply with food safety standards but also help grow the size of the export market.

“If we are able to meet requirements of buyers like better taste, the length and colour of grapes, etc, we will be able to acquire a much larger share of the world market,” said Jagannath Khapre, president of All India Grape Exporters Association.

Consumers in the EU favour grapes that are 18 millimetres in length while those in China prefer those of 22 mm. Indian grape varieties, however, are only of 18mm. Also, the Chinese are ready to pay a premium price for red coloured grapes but Indian farmers do not grow any red coloured variety.

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