India produces nearly 1.7 million tonnes of grapes every year and Maharashtra contributes nearly 70 per cent of the output. Grape is a highly profitable crop. Of the 1.7 m tonnes, only a tiny fraction goes into winemaking and wine grapes offer even better returns. It is estimated that grape farmers make anywhere between Rs 40-80 for every litre of wine consumed. In comparison, Barley and wheat farmers earn just Rs 12 for a litre of beer and sugarcane farmers just Rs 4 for a litre of molasses-based hard liquor.

To increase the income of grape farmers, the Maharashtra government last week allowed supermarkets with an area of more than 1,000 sq feet to sell wine. Wine-makers are obviously cheering and the move seems to have thrilled the farmers too. But the BJP, the opposition party in Maharashtra, says this would abet alcoholism. Is there indeed a big social cost that the government is overlooking to help farmers? And does it indeed help farmers or merely the big winemakers?

TR Vivek is in conversation with Jagdish Holkar, the president of The All India Wine Producers Association (AIWPA) the Apex body of wineries in India, on these issues.