Virus squashes exporters hope  40,000 tonnes of harvest lie in warehouses, for want of labour, freight services

MUMBAI: The 21-day lockdown is proving to be a case of sour grapes for the state's grape industry.

In Maharashtra, the top producer in the country, cultivators have almost 40,000 tonnes of grapes sitting in their warehouses and fields, amounting to more than 30 per cent of exports which they are unable to move, amid the coronavirus outbreak. The lockdown means there is a dearth of labourers and freight services, leaving manufacturers unable to ship out their products. "There is no means of transport.

Not just that, the grapes are lying in the warehouses without any means of preserving them because there is no one to take care of this task," said Samir Kotak, owner of Fresh grapes India. Already there was a dip in the business and then the pandemic came along to make matters worse. Exports have fallen, as compared to the last financial year.

In 2018-2019, Maharashtra exported 90,000 tonnes of grapes, whereas this FY, the state has only been able to export only 75,000 tonnes. Countries like, Germany, UK, Netherlands and Ireland were some of the major importers of Indian grapes however, due to the virus outbreak the demand of grapes in international market has also fallen.

"We export major consignments to European countries. But due to the virus outbreak business is stalled as almost half of Europe is under lockdown similarly, we are also not in the condition to initiate business either" Kotak added. Earlier, in November 2019, unseasonal rains and hailstorms in the northern and western parts of Maharashtra laid waste to several vineyards.

However, producers clung to hopes that they would recover their losses in the summer but in view of the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, their outlook is grim. Onion producers too are crying over their fate.

The unseasonal rains last November, led to huge crop losses across the state. Following this, the Centre had suspended onion exports, to maintain stocks in the country. From March 15, exports were supposed to resume, but the virus outbreak put paid to those prospects.

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