With nearly 2,000 acres of grape farms located towards the west of the city (Thondamuthur area) a decade-and-a-half ago, Coimbatore was among the major grape cultivation centres in the State. It still is. But, the area of cultivation has shrunk to 400 acres or less.
Apart from Theni and Cumbum, Coimbatore has a large number of farms growing the paneer variety of grapes (with seeds). Almost 70 per cent of the produce goes to Kerala and the rest is sold in the local market.
Unseasonal rains in summer, fall in prices, and rising cultivation costs during the last two years have hit the grape growers.
Manickam, who has grown grapes for more than 30 years now, says that prices are just about Rs. 20 a kg as against Rs. 35 to Rs. 40 a kg when the market was good.
This is not enough to recover the investment. Farmers spend about Rs. 1 lakh for every crop a year, he says.
According to Rayappan, another grape grower, there should be a consistent market for grapes from Coimbatore. Farmers now sell at the offer quoted by the buyers.
M. Vijayan, president of Coimbatore Grape Growers’ Association, says that unseasonal rains in the district last year and this year have hit yield. Farmers are shifting to other crops and area under grapes is coming down as they are unable to get better price. “We have two crops a year. But the shelf life of this variety of grapes is less. It cannot be stored in cold storage. Hence, we are unable to provide regular supply to our buyers,” he says.
Cultivation costs are also going up. Grape growers in the district shell out about 50 per cent of the investment towards labour.
Though nearly 10,000 acres are under grape cultivation in the State, there is no research centre here.
Farmers need to go to Pune or Karnataka for any guidance. The Government should support the grape farmers here with inputs for increasing the shelf life, tapping new markets, etc., he says.