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Rain turns grape growers’ dreams sour

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LOST: A farmer showing rotten grapes in drying process at the Aliabad raisin yard near Bijapur.
LOST: A farmer showing rotten grapes in drying process at the Aliabad raisin yard near Bijapur.

Staff Correspondent

ALIABAD (BIJAPUR DISTRICT): There used to be festive mood in this raisin (dry grapes) yard all these years. For the first time, horticulturists appear to be in disgusting mood following the heavy loss caused by untimely rain that has been lashing the region for a week now.

Over 1,000 grape drying rakes exist in this sprawling area of around 150 acres, 10 km from Bijapur, and grape growers from different parts of the State, mostly northern districts and some parts of Maharashtra, come every year for raisin preparation. The extremely dry weather helps farmers produce high quality raisin here.

“We have been preparing raisin here for the last 10 years, but for the first time we faced nature’s fury,” said Lacchappa Nidoni, a farmer from Chikkagalagali village near Jamkhandi. He brought 50 tonnes of grapes for making raisin. The rain started lashing when the process was in the final stage. Now, he has no hopes of any returns now. The loss, according to him, is not less than Rs. 8 lakh.

Similar is the story of Ram Chougale, who came here all the way from Bedag village near Miraj in Maharashtra. He was expecting an income of Rs. 10 lakh, but is returning home bankrupt. “We have taken nearly Rs. 15 lakh loan from different banks. We wanted to return at least Rs. 6 lakh loan this year but the plan went awry,” he told The Hindu.

There were occasions of small spell of rains in the past. But this time, it was a long spell that made most of the crop in drying process wet. While a substantial quantum of grapes is in the decomposing stage, rest developed fungus. If the humid condition continues for a day or two, nothing would remain intact, said B.M. Kokare, president of Karnataka State Grape Growers’ Association.

According to him, in the Aliabad alone, over 10,000 tonnes of grapes in the drying process have been lost. Besides, most of the farmers in the district have their own drying rakes in their gardens, and grapes in drying process in them met with the same fate, he told The Hindu.

The untimely rain in February also caused heavy damage. This time, it was more severe as the downpour continued for a week. In all, 70 per cent of crop has been lost this year. His association has put the value of raisin loss in the northern Karnataka districts at Rs. 175 crore while it is Rs. 75 crore with regard to fresh grapes (standing crops).

Bijapur district suffered heavy loss as it contributes 35 per cent of the State’s grape production. He said the untimely rain damaged the crop in Maharashtra and a survey had already begun there. Also, there had been talk of special package for the grape growers there. In Karnataka too, he said, a survey should be commenced immediately and a special package should be announced on the lines of Vidarbha Package. Since February, three farmers committed suicide in the district and the Government must do something to arrest the trend, Mr. Kokare said.

On the Central loan waiver, he said, it hardly benefited grape growers in the State because of land holding that in most cases surpassed the ceiling fixed by it.

Hence guidelines should be changed benefiting them, he added.

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