India's second largest producer of grapes after Maharashtra, Karnataka, is pulling out all the stops to become a preferred destination for setting up wineries to export a variety of wines to global markets.
"Though laggards in seizing the opportunity earlier, we are making up for the lost time by aggressively promoting grape cultivation and setting up wineries to cash in on the steady growing consumption of wine the world over," Karnataka Wine Board Managing Director K.G. Suresh Chandran told IANS, ahead of the first three-day International Wine Festival (IWF 2012) in Bangalore, beginning Friday.
With congenial agro-climatic conditions across Karnataka, the government has been luring even traditional farmers growing the fruit variety of grapes to switch over to cultivate the wine variety to reap more returns as evident from those who made the transition over the last five years.
"… With proactive policies and incentives, we have been persuading farmers to grow wine grapes and entrepreneurs to set up processing units across the state, facilitating technology tie-ups with foreign wine makers," Chandran said.
Karnataka came out with a special grape processing and wine policy in 2007 and cultivation of wine grapes has expanded to 17,356 hectares in 20 districts in 2010-11 from just 300 hectares in eight districts in 2000-01.
Annual production has shot up to 318,000 metric tonnes and brewing of wines to 1.2 million litres in 2010-11 from 300,000 litres in 2006-07. Maharashtra "…accounts for about 80 percent of the production, with cultivation in 82,000 hectares and 440,000 tonnes of production," he pointed out.
"Our efforts over the last five years are showing results as evident from the setting up of a dozen wineries and about 180 wine taverns across the state. With backend infrastructure in place, our attention is on promoting the state as another destination in the country for setting up more processing units to make world class wines for export markets," Chandran observed.
To consolidate the state's position nationally and globally, the Wine Board has chalked out ambitious plans to showcase the potential of the state's agro-based grapes and wine industry and create awareness about the wine variety of the fruit among farmers, entrepreneurs and consumers.
"About a dozen international wineries from France, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand have evinced interest in sourcing grapes from the state for brewing a variety of wines in their respective units as the quality and cost of our grapes are competitive with that of other states," he said.
As the premier and oldest winery in the state, Grover vineyards has taken the lead to enter the export market while the new wineries have started making high quality wines for overseas buyers.
Chandran pointed out that the World per capita consumption of wine had increased by 10-12 percent annually in the past decade and was poised to grow to 15 percent by 2015.