Bulk buyer Kerala backs out

Bangalore: The famed Bangalore Blue grapes have turned sour for growers comprising mostly small famers this season, as bulk buyers, especially from Kerala, have backed out because of negative propaganda, according to the Grape Growers' Association of Karnataka.

The drop in demand follows a report in a Malayalam daily that residues of fungicides and insecticides like Metalyxyl, Chloropyriphos and Captan were found in samples of Bangalore Blue grapes, making it unsafe for human consumption.

“These substances are within the permissible limits and the report was not based on scientific facts. This false claim has resulted in buyers staying away from the grape. The price has dropped to a meagre Rs. 2 to Rs. 3 a kg this season from about Rs.12 to Rs. 16 last year,” association honorary secretary P. Venugopal told presspersons here.

Adding to the woes of growers was the restrictive wine policy.

Versatile fruit

Bangalore Blue is grown exclusively in Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural, Kolar and Chickaballapur districts, and crop on nearly 8,000 acres of land was ready for a harvest of about 25,000 tonnes. It is suited for consumption as fresh fruit, juice and for wine due to perfect blend of acid and sugar content.

“About 20,000 cases of fortified wine are sold in Karnataka every month, of which 16,500 cases are made from Bangalore Blue.

This biannual crop is grown by small farmers who are finding it difficult to sell,” said K. Srinivas Gowda, convener, Chintamani Taluk Farmers' Federation.

‘Unsubstantiated'

Meanwhile, a senior Horticulture Department official told The Hindu the report in the daily was unsubstantiated. He acknowledged that the fall in demand from other States had drastically brought down the price.

“The Grape Mela at Lalbagh is being held to get a better price for the product, without which the Bangalore Blue growers would be in deep trouble,” the official said.

However, according to Mr. Srinivas, the mela is not a substitute for the Kerala market, which accounted for 30 per cent of the total production.

Following the “false propaganda”, the sale to Kerala had dropped sharply by about 80 per cent, he said, and added that the Government should protect the interest of the growers.

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