Bangalore: As 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 KG Suresh Chandran said.
With congenial agro-climatic conditions across the state, the government has been luring even traditional farmers growing fruit variety of grapes to switch over to cultivate wine variety for reaping more returns as evident from those who made the transition over the last five years.
"Enterprising farmers are making best use of the emerging opportunities in growing wine grapes. 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 ahead of the first three-day International Wine Festival (IWF 2012) in the city from Friday.
Ever since the state came out with a special grape processing and wine policy in 2007, cultivation of wine grapes has expanded to 17,356 hectares in 20 districts in 2010-11 from a mere 300 hectares in eight districts in 2000-01.
Similarly, 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.
"In terms of acreage and production, we are second only to Maharashtra in the country though we have a long way to go to catch up with the neighbouring state, which accounts for about 80 per cent of the production, with cultivation in 82,000 hectares and 440,000 tonnes of production," Chandran pointed out.
Asserting that wine has found universal acceptance and is consumed the world over, Chandran said the world per capita consumption had increased by 10-12 per cent annually in the past decade and was poised to grow to 15 per cent by 2015.
"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.
Grape cultivation in the state dates back to the 18th century with the erstwhile Nizam of Hyderabad introducing the fruity variety in the northern districts such as Bidar, Bijapur, Bagalkote, Belgaum and Gulbarga.
Christian missionaries brought them to the southern districts in the 19th century, thanks to the favourable climate.
"As even wine grapes are grown once in a year, hundreds of farmers are responding to our initiatives to grow them as a cash crop in place of the fruity variety, which are perishable and face regional competition from their counterparts in other states," Chandran added.