Indian grape crop bounces back, Russian market unsteady

After a light table crop last year, India's volume this year is expected to be 30 to 35 percent bigger than a typical crop. That has some exporters worried that there might be too much volume this season, especially since the Russian market has been so volatile.
“There are a lot of grapes that will be going to Europe, and that has everybody a bit worried,” said Samir Singh of Unisel Co. His company began sourcing grapes from its own subsidiary company in India, Mersel Foods Pvt. Ltd, three years ago, and with Europe, the Baltic region and Russia as his main markets, Russian economic conditions and the prospect of a large crop could drive down prices.
“Things are good now because the South African season finished early due to some weather issues, so there weren't sufficient volumes to satisfy the European market,” Samir said. “Shipments look good this month, but we'll see what happens in March.” By then, Thompson grapes, the most popular variety from India, will make up the majority of Indian exports. For now, black grapes and Flames are still available from India.

What further complicates this season is the precarious economic situation in Russia. Currency devaluation has importers wary of handling grapes, which are relatively expensive and have a shelf life of only a few weeks. Samir estimated that Indian exporters usually send about 800 containers of grapes to Russia every season, but it's likely they will send fewer containers this time around.

Unisel Co. is based in Latvia, and Samir explained that that gives the company a good base from which to send Indian grapes to both Europe as well as Russia, Belarus and the Baltic countries. For the former, Holland is the most common destination, and for the latter, Indian grapes are mostly sent to Russia.

“There used to be no Indian grapes in Latvia and Belarus a few years ago, so these are new markets we can explore,” he said. “The buying capacity in this region is lower than that in Europe, so we can compete better against Chilean grapes. The taste is also acceptable here, so there is virtually no competition from Chile.”
So far, the weather conditions have been favorable for the supply of quality grapes, except for last week when rains for a couple of days caused some disruptions in harvesting of grapes. Overall, the quality of grapes looks good and the prospects of a bumper crop do not seem to diminish.
Last season's bad crop meant that only about 22 containers were shipped from India. This season, Samir plans to export about 150 containers, with 30 or 40 going to the Baltic region. With more promotion, he believes Indian grapes will make more inroads in Latvia and beyond.
“The prospects for Indian grapes just depend on how promotions go,” said Samir. “We can grow good varieties there, an we can do a far greater volume if we get more varieties.”

For more information:

Samir Singh
Unisel Co. / Mersel Foods Pvt.
Mob: 003712-951-60-75

Author: Carlos Nunez / Yzza Ibrahim


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