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The markets had closed their doors on Rohit Chavan, a fruit farmer, even before the COVID-19 lockdown. Rohit owns a 72-acre grape farm in Indapur, a municipal council in Pune district. With a degree in MSc (Horticulture) Rohit has always wanted to aid his father in farming.
Normally, the farmer exports black grapes to Europe and usually earns between Rs 110-115 per kg. After the export routes were closed, he had to turn to the domestic market. Here too, the demand was close to nothing. The best rate offered to him was not more than Rs 20/kg.
To harvest grapes to be sold for Rs 20/kg would mean incurring labour charges. Additional expenses. To leave the grapes unharvested would mean wasting the year’s efforts. Rohit was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
At this juncture, a 2017-18 research by the National Research Centre for Grapes (NRCG), Pune came to Rohit’s aid. The study outlined how to turn grapes into raisins on the vines themselves. “Under the right weather conditions, it takes the grapes about 12-15 days to turn into raisins. I began working on the process on the 2nd of April and recently sold 10 tonnes of raisin,” Rohit tells The Better India (TBI).
And the price? A whopping Rs 250 per kg!
Dry-on-Vine Method helping Grape Farmers in Maharashtra
The Dry-on-vine method has proved to be a boon for not just Rohit but many farmers in Pune, Nashik and Sangli. And the NRCG is helping farmers adopt this novel technique as opposed to incurring 100 per cent losses due to the rain and lockdown. Though these farmers always focus on fresh grapes, in these desperate times they are attempting to save their entire produce by turning them into green and black raisins.
So how does the process work? To know the answer, TBI got in touch with Dr Anand Kumar Singh, the Deputy Director-General of Horticulture Sciences, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
This is what he told us:
- For the preparation of raisin on the vine, spray 15 ml of ethyl oleate + 25 g potassium carbonate per litre water. Spray it on the bunches of grapes. (For a one-acre farm make a solution of 2.25-litre ethyl oleate and 3.75 kg potassium carbonate with 150 litres of water).
- After 3 days, follow it with the second batch of spray but with reduced concentration (1.65-litre ethyl oleate and 2.70 kg potassium carbonate with 150-litre of water).
- Depending upon the Gibberellic acid used during the berry development stage, if required, one more spray with a half dose on the 4th day. A spray of half-dose may be given on 6th day.
- The application of ethyl oleate and potassium carbonate through spray on the vine converts fresh grapes to raisin with 16 per cent moisture within 12 to 14 days from the date of the first spray.
- “These chemicals are not absorbed by the berries. Making organic raisins is something we will explore in the future,” Dr Singh says.
The Result According to Grape Farmers:
Rohit harvested his raisins in about 12-15 days. He had such faith in the process that he had already told the vendors about the expected harvest and was able to sell them off quickly. “NRCG has suggested that I experiment on 100-200 vines. But I did it on 10 acres of my farm instead. I am so happy with the result that I will keep 15 acres of my grape farm for the dry-on-vine method for the next year. I have already taught it to four of my farmer friends,” he tells TBI.
Arun More, another grape farmer from Nashik wasn’t so confident. Although he has harvested the raisins on his farm, he is taking time to process and pack them. He hopes that by the time his processing is done, the markets will open again and he can connect with vendors. More shares that this novel method requires less investment than the conventional method – something that had stopped him from making raisins in the past.
Times Are Sour, Not the Grapes:
Maharashtra accounts for 81 per cent of India’s total production of grapes. With the heavy lockdown situation imposed across the country, thousands of farmers growing black and green grapes have borne losses.
“Cultivation of grapes is capital and technology-intensive. This year, Maharashtra had a bountiful harvest and the major growers in the state, like Nashik, Pune and Satara had exported nearly 85,000 tonnes by 6 April. That’s when the market dropped completely. With no one to buy the grapes but with several thousand tonnes of the fruits still on the vines, farmers were in a soup,” says Dr Singh.
With losses mounting due to the lockdown, farmers like Rohit and More approached ICAR National Research Centre For Grapes for help. “I approached NRCG on the day the lockdown was imposed. Within the next two days, they had compiled videos, advisories and instructions on dry-on-vine technology. The videos clearly showed which chemicals are to be used, when and how to spray them. This increased my confidence in the system,” says More.
Dr Singh has already lost count of how many farmers have benefited from this method. Like Rohit, many other farmers have shared the technology with their friends, benefiting farmers across Maharashtra.
Of course, the profits have shifted a bit from their usual numbers. But at least, the grapes aren’t so sour anymore!
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)