Seedless grapes from India have become an integral part of certain French sparkling wines and Australian wines. Even as some grape exporters are engaged in setting up sustainable business practices with European importers, many say some varieties have found favour in France and Australia despite both origins being major grape producers.
India is one of the largest exporters of grapes. The Thompson Seedless variety, which are green in colour, and Sharad Seedless and Jumbo variety, black coloured ones, are exported chiefly to the Netherlands. From there, Indian grapes are distributed throughout Europe, with a sizeable amount landing in Australia and France.
“Grapes from India are used for blending certain wines in France,” said Sopan Kanchan, Chairman of Grape Growers Federation of India. “Exports of concentrated grape juice and even dried grapes have shot up considerably from Nasik, Sangli and Ahmednagar to the Netherlands and the European Union,” Kanchan told BusinessLine.
Ashwin Rodrigues, a wine maker who used to work in Australia, before turning manufacturer in India, says grapes from Nashik, Sangli and Pimpalgaon are regularly used in making Sauvignon Blanc, sparkling wines, white blends, and some rose wines in Australia.
While grapes from China, India, and other tropical countries are used for light dry wines, fine red wines are generally made from grapes grown in France’s Bordeaux and Rhone regions.
In 2010, the European Union had stayed grape imports from India, given the excessive chemicals on the fruit. Kanchan said the EU wanted more chemicals to be monitored, and had hiked the range from 98 to 167. He said that the matter had been sorted out amicably and that exports resumed by end-2012. IG International Director Tarun Arora added that repeat orders from the UK for the Thompson Seedless variety of grapes was a welcome step. He added that the Jumbo variety of black grapes had a huge market in the Gulf countries.
In 2013-14, India exported 17,212.25 million tonnes of grapes to the United Arab Emirates, its fourth highest export destination. Exports were valued at ₹129.62 crore, according to data on the APEDA (Agriculture and processed fruit products export development authority) website.
The European Union is the largest international market for Indian grapes. In 2013-14, India exported 46,136.91 mt of grapes to the Netherlands, valued at ₹527 crore. While grape exports from India to the Netherlands were the highest, Russia secured the second spot, accounting for 24,503 mt.
“The grape harvest from Maharashtra, specifically designed for exports to the European market, has begun early this month,” said Kanchan. “It is normally around the second week of February but this year, it commenced during late January given the good crop,” he said.
“Last year, our exports were 4,200 containers (of 12-14 tonnes of produce each),” said the Chairman of the Grape Growers Federation of India, adding that many exporters were keen to engage with European importers so as to set up sustainable business practices.