Growers helpless:Bijapur, the highest grape-producing district in the State, cultivates grape on 6,137 hectares (ha), of which the standing crop on 5,031 ha has already been destroyed.
In the last three months, Tammanna Hangargi has spent nearly Rs. 8 lakh on supplying water through tankers to save half of the crops on his 30-acre vineyard.
“I have already lost 15 acres of crops, now I am struggling to save at least the remaining,” he said with dismay.
Despite having a dozen borewells, he is spending money on water tankers as the water-level in the borewells has depleted sharply.
“Now, my 12 borewells together are not supplying adequate water even for five acres of the vineyard,” Mr. Hangargi said.
Although he is one of the few rich grape farmers in the district, Mr. Hangargi’s hopes, like those of other farmers, have been dashed by nature. He admits that the condition of small grape farmers is even worse, as they have no choice but to helplessly watch their crops wither.
Horticulture experts say that grape vines need constant supply of water to in order to stay alive. Unlike fruits such as pomegranate, which germinates again when water is provided, grapes lack this quality.
“If the stem dries up, then the farmers have no choice but to cut the plants and plant saplings afresh. Which is why the farmers struggle to at least keep the plant alive to avoid replantation,” said a technical expert in Horticulture Department.
Mr. Hangargi said he would have to replant grape vines on 15 acres, which would cost him at least Rs. 50 lakh, in addition to the Rs. 60 lakh in revenue that he has lost owing to the drought.
80 per cent damaged
According to statistics from the Horticulture Department, the scanty rainfall this year has already damaged nearly 80 per cent of vineyards, which count for 37 per cent of the horticultural crops cultivated in the district.
Bijapur, the highest grape-producing district in the State, cultivates grapes on 6,137 hectares (ha), of which the standing crop on 5,031 ha has already been destroyed.
Of the over 3 lakh tonnes annual production of grapes in the State, Bijapur district alone produces around 1.22 lakh tonnes.
Of the total production, nearly 60 per cent goes into preparing raisins and 40 per cent is used for direct consumption.
Each kg of raisins requires at least 4 kg of grapes, the officials said, adding that farmers found raisins more profitable as they could be stored for longer periods and sold when demand is high.
The officials feel that if the drought situation persists for another month, then the remaining crop will also wither.
In the report submitted to the Central Drought Monitoring Team which visited the district on Thursday, the Horticulture Department has put the loss of grapes at Rs. 413.14 crore.
Speaking to The Hindu , B.M. Kokare, former president of the Grape Growers’ Association and vice-chairman of the Grape Growers’ Federation of India, said that both the State and Union Government should come to the rescue of grape farmers.
He said that as most of the grape farmers obtained loans from nationalised banks, the Union government should at least waive the interest and reschedule the loans.
“As the nationalised banks come under the Union government, the State Government should mount pressure and share at least 20 per cent of the amount, which will encourage the Union government to meet our demand,” Mr. Kokare said.
Grape counts for 37 per cent of the horticultural crops grown in Bijapur
Bijapur grows 1.22 lakh tonnes of the over 3 lakh tonnes of grapes produced in the State