The All India Grape Exporters Association (AIGEA) has predicted that the European Union’s (EU) regulation on Mancozeb would affect table grapes export from India. The Association has demanded that the government of India must take up the matter with EU.
However, Sahyadri Farmers Producer Company, India’s largest grape exporting company, has welcomed the EU’s step, saying that regulation of Mancozeb will lead grape farmers to use more cost-effective fungicides.
The EU, on December 14, 2020, issued a notification regarding non-approval of active substance Mancozeb, which is a protective fungicide effective against a wide range of foliar fungal diseases. It is registered for use on horticultural and agricultural food crops as well as on ornamentals and tobacco, and in forestry.
Transition time has been provided to re-adjust the package of practices for exports of table grapes to the EU. Currently, maximum residue levels (MRLs) are not reduced to the default level of 0.01 mg/kg till January 2022. According to APEDA, India’s grape harvest scheduled for export to EU in season 2021 will not be affected as a grace period of Mancozeb shall expire on January 4, 2022.
However, from the next season (2022), the grape growers cultivating export variety for the EU market will have to adopt an alternate package of plant protection methods and stop the use of Mancozeb.
Back to organic farming
“Indian grape export is gaining root in recent times but various restrictions imposed by the EU keep farmers on their toes. The government has to take up the matter with EU and ensure that frequent regulations and rules don’t affect the export”, AIGEA president Jagannath Khapre told BusinessLine. Khapre added that there is no data available on the use of Mancozeb in India and farmers are not sure on the alternative fungicide.
More than twenty grape varieties are under cultivation in India and a dozen varieties are commercially grown and exported to Europe and Gulf countries. The Netherlands, UK, Germany, Russia and Bangladesh were the major grape export destinations for India in 2019-20.
Khapre said that considering the cautious approach of EU countries regarding the use of chemicals in cultivation, grape farmers will have to go back to organic farming. “Since the 1960s grape farmers in India started using more and more chemicals and turned their back on organic cultivation. Probably, we will have to adopt old methods of cultivation and also find a way out to make it cost-effective”, he said.
Boost to R&D
Maharashtra ranks first in terms of grape production, accounting for more than 81.22 per cent of total production and the highest productivity in the country. AIGEA fears that Maharashtra grape farmers and exporters will have to revise their cultivation and export plans with the new regulation.
However, Vilas Shinde, chairman and MD of Sahyadri Farmers Producer Company, said the EU regulations are not specific to India and export will not be affected. “The new regulation will give a boost to research and development and farmers will get a chance to use new fungicide, which will cost them less. World over grape consumers are becoming cautious about using food items grown using chemicals and we have to go with the market choice”, said Shinde.
Grape is one of the important fruits covering an area of 123 thousand hectares occupying 2.01 per cent of the total area. The country has exported 1,93,690.55 MT grapes to the world, worth ₹2,176.88 crore ($298.05 million) during 2019-20, according to APEDA.
“The new regulation will not create any problem for the export of grapes as of now. But farmers will have to think of alternatives right from now,” Shinde added.