Cold wave makes grapes unfit for wine, dry fruits

Farmers are in a grip of panic with temperatures plummeting to 4 to 5 degrees Celsius across North Karnataka and intense cold wave spanning more than four days.

Hundreds of grape growers across North Karnataka region who managed to save their crop from severe drought a few months ago, have now suffered a double whammy with severe winter ruining their bumper crop. The bone-biting cold wave in the last few days has squeezed the sugar content out of grapes and turned them sour besides making the fruit unfit for wineries or dry fruit industries. Sources in the horticulture department revealed to DH that nearly 70% of the 23,000-hectare crop has gone waste, making it one of the worst agrarian crises in the state.

Farmers are in a grip of panic with temperatures plummeting to 4 to 5 degrees Celsius across North Karnataka and intense cold wave spanning more than four days. Abhayakumar S Nandrekar, president of the grape growers’ association told DH that if the situation continues even for another two days, it will be more disastrous. “Since 2015, for four consecutive years, we have been reeling under severe drought. This time, we were able to safeguard crops with tanker water. But this severe winter has reversed our calculations inflicting even more damage,” Nandrekar, who owns 12 acres of wine-yards told DH.

According to Nandrekar, the extreme cold has resulted in the reduction of water content in grapes. “Due to reduced water content, the sugar content technically called ‘brix’, has come down sharply. A majority of the grapes grown in Bagalkot, Vijayapura and Belagavi are sent to Maharashtra for wine production. The table-wine grape should have a brix level of 21 to 25%. But the cold conditions have reduced it to a mere 5 to 6%, making it sour. They can neither be used in the dry fruit industry nor for wine. If you supply it to the local market for domestic consumption as fruit, nobody will buy the sour fruit,” he moaned.

More than 5,000 farmers in 16 districts have taken up grape cultivation.

“Until last year, many of us had sold grapes for Rs 60-65 a kg. But this year, it is difficult to get even Rs 10 a kg,” said Ramu Jambagi, a grower from Tikota village in Vijayapura.

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