Indian smallholder grape scheme gathers pace for Don Limón
While India may be one of the world's leading table grape growers with long-established supplies in international markets, what about the small-scale farmers who struggle with exports? Here's where a new project supported by German fruit supplier Don Limón comes in. The company's Debjit Ghosh and Christopher Mars speak with www.freshfruitportal.com.
"The quality is there, but the problem can sometimes be the lack of knowledge that is holding farmers back."
In terms of supplying Europe, historically one of the problems in the Indian grape sector has been chemical residues leading to rejected consignments.
Over the years many producers have avoided the EU because of high costs and a general perception that it's too 'high risk'.
"Residue has definitely been the biggest problem. Through this project, we will train them [farmers] and give solutions to these types of problems and show them how they can maintain the quality and have no residue problems.
"If the farmers are ultimately targeting supplies going into the supermarket chains, it's very important for them to be 100% sure that they are not going to be rejected and then be faced with selling somewhere else with a much lower price.
"This is our directive; to involve farmers in the projects so they are committed to the goal of achieving success globally. We are helping them to open new channels and are building bridges between farmers and international markets such as Canada, Europe and Russia."
Ghosh regularly leaves his Hamburg base for visits to India, while colleague Mars is responsible for overseeing the public-private partnership side of the project in conjunction with the German government.
"This is a three-year program with small farmers growing grapes in particular areas of India, including Maharashtra, where we are introducing them to delivering at the top level, so they have to be aware of many methods concerning pre and post-harvesting and trading issues," Mars tells www.freshfruitportal.com.
"You could call it a type of training, but it's more about making farmers aware of the important aspects, passing on the knowledge that will ultimately help them produce better, until they themselves become sustainable.
"The project has only just started really and we have an initial 45 farmers. The next step will be to have around 70 farmers, then to increase numbers to more than 100 farmers."
Initial grape harvest expectations
The first seedless Thompson varieties are being harvested from now, with more expected in January 2015, and initial expectations for quality and volumes look solid. Each farm is between one to 1.5 hectares.
"This year we do forecast quite good volumes. Earlier this year there was a lack of rain so we were monitoring things over September, but there has been a good recovery and the weather and rainfall changed so regions in Maharashtra are looking good and are harvesting throughout December.
"It would be good to start with the Russian market which is less concerned with residues than say Europe, and in January we will be looking elsewhere," adds Ghosh.
The pre and post harvesting processes will continue throughout the three year project when producers will be armed with the know-how to maintain sustainable export-ready crops.
"Afterwards the farmers are in much better position and are able to sustain the higher levels on their own.
"We also encourage farmers to share their knowledge with as many new producers as possible along the way as part of the sustainability model of this project," adds Mars.