The Indian grape season is getting underway, with smaller volumes at the moment. From January on, the larger volumes will be harvested. For one exporter most of these grapes will be sent to the European market. The current farmer protests do not affect the grape season, as sales channels used by grape farmers do not involve the traditional market-platform created by the government.
It’s expected the grapes from India will be available in lower volumes than last season, but February should compensate for this, Samir Singh, produce promoter for Mersel Foods, explains: “The harvesting of grapes in India is already going on at smaller level at some locations like Satana and Baramati. The main region for Indian grapes, Nashik, will have grapes ready for harvesting starting in week 2. We expect there will be enough grapes for harvesting up to week 15. There had been continued rains in October, forcing farmers to delay the pruning process. As a result, there will be less than usual volume of grapes available in January and more than the usual volume in February.
"For the last couple of months the climate conditions have been very favorable, with a lot of sun. The grapes look nice in the vineyards and we’re expecting to harvest grapes of a stable quality, with good brix levels and sizes. The total volume of harvest this season is expected to be around the same level as it was last year.”
Naturally the Indian fruit exporters in general are keeping a close eye on the situation in Europe, as the coronavirus is spreading again and countries are announcing new lockdowns: “The main concern for all Indian exporters in the current season is the impending impact of Covid-19 on the demand for Indian grapes. There have been restrictions and closing of institutions and outlets throughout Europe, which is the largest market for Indian grapes. The experience of last year has been very bitter and damaging, so we are going ahead with utter cautiousness, keeping a close eye on how situation unfolds as we gradually enter the season.” Singh says.
Although India is experiencing widespread protests by farmers against new laws, Singh feels it will not have an impact on the grape season, who trade independently from the government market-platform anyway: “There has been widespread protest by farmers against the new laws liberalizing agricultural markets. Fortunately, the grape industry is not affected by these laws, as sales channels used by grape farmers do not involve the traditional market-platform created by the government.”
Mersel Foods’ main market for grapes is in Europe, however the exporter will try to get a foothold in the Canadian market this year as well, Singh says. “We have been focusing on Europe and Russia for sales of our grapes and, owing to our commitment to quality and having sales offices based in these markets, we have seen a good penetration into these markets. We understand the requirements of consumers in these markets and have tailored our produce to suit their preferences. We are expanding our market to Canada this year, which has a different requirement in terms of the quality standard.”
Singh states that prices will be slightly higher in January, but will be pressured once the larger volumes become available on the market, around February: “Owing to the limited volume available for export in January, the prices for Indian grapes are expected to be on a higher side in the beginning of the season. However, February and March will see plenty of grapes available for export and prices will be under pressure. If the Covid-19 situation remains under control, we hope to see a successful Indian season in 2021.” He concludes.