Heavy rainfall and flooding in India's leading export table grape production region are likely to result in lighter volumes than anticipated during the early stages of the upcoming campaign.
Rains over several consecutive days in the Nashik region in the central state of Maharashtra have left many vineyards waterlogged, although expectations are that the overall season should not be too severely affected.
Other produce-growing regions have also been affected by unusually wet weather for this time of year.
Monsoon Fresh director Pravin Sandhan said the unseasonal rains started in early October and intensified last week in Nashik, where around 80% of India's export table grapes are grown.
"It is quite early to speak about the losses or the damage to the crop, but we can say that there will definitely be some effect on the early part of the season," he told PBUK on Friday (October 13).
He said that in general, crops that were in the flowering stage would likely be most affected, while vineyards that had either finished or not yet begun the process should see less damage.
The Indian table grape export season typically runs from around December until April, with the vast majority of volumes shipped to continental Europe and the UK.
Sandhan said the biggest issue for growers would be dealing with the downy mildew fungal disease, but the extent of the damage will only become clear once the weather improves and temperatures rise.
He also noted last year there had been excess Indian table grapes in the European market, and so there was a chance the current situation could balance out the market this coming season.
Only around 7-8 per cent of Indian table grape production is currently exported, but an increasing number of farmers are becoming interested in selling their produce to foreign markets, he said.
"That’s why Europe has been flooded - every year many farmers are turning toward making an export crop," he said.
"On the supply-side, production will probably be lower this season, but there might be a correction with regards to the oversupply that happened last year."
A representative of another table grape exporter, Task Fruits, said the continuous rains over recent days could shave off up to a quarter of early season volumes.
He said farmers were trying to limit the damage caused by fungal diseases, but with such constant rainfall it was challenging to apply fungicides.
"It is still raining and damage due to rains is expected to increase," Tarun Aher said.
"It will affect exports during the 2017-18 season, mainly early export in December and January, up to 20-25 per cent."
He anticipated exports during February and March would be normal.
Meanwhile a representative of Germany-based Don Limon, which has thrown its support behind Indian table grape growers, said there had not yet been any reports of loss but there would likely be some effect on volumes.
"We expect a reduction in the production volume, but the overall season remains good. Last year it was not so good but this year the quality will be better," Chiranjeevi Rajanna said.
He also said that lower volumes could lead to improved market conditions for exporters.
In addition, he noted the industry was looking into boosting exports to Canada and the U.S., taking some pressure off the European market to which around 85-90% of exports are sent.
"The Indian Government is giving some initiatives to exporters in India to see what they can do with the U.S. market. I don't see any immediate change, but in 2019 there may be some exports to the U.S. and less to Europe," he said.