India's grape exports worth more than Rs 1,500 crore. The business is however under threat as farmers need to switch to new disease resistant varieties that many of them can scarcely afford.
With the European Union proposing to make norms regarding pesticide residues more stringent, Indian farmers need to import better varieties that entail high patent costs.
The EU has proposed to reduce the minimum residue level of chlormequat chloride, the growth regulator used on grapes, from 0.05 parts per million to 0.01 per cent.
The residue level had led to rejection of Indian grapes worth crores of rupees in 2010. It was a major setback to small growers and exporters who did not have the capacity to withstand the financial loss.
As the EU proposes to bring the chlormequat chloride level further down to 0.01 parts per million, Indian farmers want at least five more years to comply. Indian authorities and farmers are optimistic that the EU will be considerate of their views.
"The remains of CCC in soil will continue to express for some time in the fruit even if farmers stop its usage," said a government official, who did not want to be identified.
Indian farmers want the government to expedite the process of importing some good foreign grape varieties as the indigenous varieties need more pesticides due to their disease susceptibility.
Grapes accounted for nearly 40 per cent in India's total fruit exports of about Rs 4,000 crore in 2015-16. Maharashtra alone accounted for more than 90 per cent of India's total grape exports.