Raisin trade turns sour for farmers in Bijapur district

Raisin trade turns sour for  farmers in Bijapur district

The damage caused by heavy rain to 26,000 metric tonnes of grapes in the orchards of the district has left raisin traders high and dry.

The unseasonal hailstorms have left raisin producers without grapes that are dried to produce raisins. In many places, grapes laid out to drying have been spoilt. Racks used for drying grapes have also been damaged.

The district, on an average, produces raisins worth Rs 2,000 crore annually. The damage this year may throw Bijapur’s economy off track.

Usually, grape growers from the neighbouring districts of Bagalkot, Belgaum and Solapur district in Maharashtra bring their produce to Bijapur district for drying, given its lesser humidity. Grape growers have installed more than a thousand racks on 200 acres of land they have purchased at Aliabad on the outskirts of Bijapur, to produce raisins.

The damage has been maximised since none of the raisin producers uses machinery to dry the grapes. They dry the grapes the natural way and this is responsible for the heavy losses.

Farmers say that this year has been the worst for them and that grapes laid to dry on the racks were not drying up even after 20 days. It usually takes 12 days for grapes to become raisins. Instead, they are turning black, which is not a good sign and can reduce the farmers’ income greatly. They fear that they will lose more than 75 per cent of the expected yield as the showers have led to the grapes rotting.

Farmers had reaped a rich harvest on 22,000 acres and usually, only a fourth of the fruit is sold.

The rest of it goes into raisin production. One acre of grape orchard yields one tonne of raisin, but the rain this time has meant that the farmers’ efforts will not bear fruits.

Karnataka produces 35,000 tonnes of raisins a year, including 20,000 tonnes in Bijapur district alone. While 40 per cent of the produce is consumed within the State, the rest of it goes to markets in Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and in Dubai. Since Bijapur does not have scientific facilties to produce and process raisins, much of the produce is usually sold in the markets of Sangli and Tasgaon in Maharashtra.

The present price stands at Rs 160 a kg. If the produce turns black due to rain, the price usually crashes to Rs 10 a kg. But the demand this time has pushed the rate of the low quality variety to Rs 40 to Rs 50.

Farmers fear that traders may resort to changing the colour of the raisins to brown by mixing them with sulphur, to cheat consumers.

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