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Thursday, Apr 22, 2004

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Poor quality hits grape exports from AP

Ch. Prashanth Reddy

HYDERABAD , April 21

EXPORT of grapes from Andhra Pradesh has dropped to 1,000 tonnes this year from 1,800 tonnes last year on account of fall in the quality of the produce. Unseasonal rains in January and February affected the quality, though the crop output is estimated to be normal at about 40,000 tonnes.

According to the Joint Director of Andhra Pradesh Horticulture Department (APHD), Mr Sambasiva Rao, a pest called "Trips", which affects the quality of the output, attacked the grape gardens. The farmers did not use pesticides extensively to curb the pest out of fear that pesticide residues would make the produce unfit for exports.

In the past few years, grape exports from the State have doubled every year. While 450 tonnes of grapes were exported from the State in 2001, exports doubled to 900 tonnes in 2002 and 1,800 tonnes in 2003. APHD has targeted a production of one-lakh tonnes and export of 10,000 tonnes of grapes per annum by 2007.

Currently, grapes are grown in an area of about 2,000 hectares with a total yield of around 40,000 tonnes.

In 2002, the State Government, in association with the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda), established an agri-export zone (AEZ) exclusively for grapes. The AEZ, involving an initial outlay of about Rs 107 crore, is basically meant for expansion in the area of grapes cultivation and provision of packinghouses, pre-cooling units and cold storage facilities. The export zone covers Rangareddy, Medak and Mahaboobnagar districts, which are known for grapes cultivation.

Mr Rao told Business Line that grape farmers in the AEZ were given technical advise this year regarding crop management and provision of timely inputs. Books pertaining to phytosanitary rules and conditions have also been distributed to the farmers.

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