The Indian grape season is in the offing. The crop this time is solid, both in terms of quality and volume, with the Fresh Deciduous Fruit Annual Report for India predicting a 5% jump in table grape exports.

So our question to you is, with geographical borders finally opening, is your business ready to capture a slice of this market?

A look back on Indian grape export

The pandemic has not been kind to grape exporters. The annual grape export growth rate to Europe in 2016-17 was 32%. In 2019-20 fiscal year, right when COVID-19 hit, it plunged to (-)12%, calculates APEDA. 

The next season, 2020-21, grape exports to European countries fell by 18%. While we shipped 92,342.403 tons in the previous season, only 74,944.261 tons were shipped by March 2021.

The past two years have not been great for table grape exports.

Like for every other fruit and vegetable, Covid brought a slew of challenges, most of them logistical. Labor shortages, lack of sufficient containers, soaring sea freight rates, and shipping delays1, all caused a decline in grape exports. 

Restrained demand and preference for domestic market produce because export prices became too high only made the situation worse. In short, growers’ and export margins were shaved off from all ends: production, packaging, and shipping. 

The coming grape season will pick up momentum.

Fortunately, this year’s vine bore a good harvest because the grape-growing region was blessed with good weather. So, growers expect better quality fruit. Moreover, unlike last year when the pandemic-lead lockdown delayed pruning and harvest, this year there were no restrictions. With better labor availability, production was solid and is predicted to be 26% more, reaching 2.9 million MT, similar to pre-pandemic levels.2 

Resist challenges and get ready for the season.

A good harvest doesn’t automatically mean a good season for grape exporters. 

That’s particularly true if the packaging and freight rates persist at their current level, which is around US$8,0003 for one reefer to Rotterdam. To recoup the expense, traders would have to hike grape market prices well above what is reasonable. High prices would lead to lower demand and, therefore, fewer sales.

Conforming to quality and proving it

Another hurdle is non-conformance to quality. In 2019, the European Union issued 1474 border rejection notifications for Indian consignments. It’s a prevailing issue, particularly in fresh produce.

Border rejections happen for all sorts of reasons. One, growers still rely on traditional methods to judge quality. It leaves room for errors and mistakes, so by the time a shipment reaches its destination, it doesn’t comply with quality standards. 

Two, EU importers ask for structured reports that show clear assurance and proof of quality. Even if your grape harvest is of superior quality, without the reports, it has no value. And images shared on messaging apps don’t count in the international market. 

With new regulations, like the need “to adopt alternate package of plant protection methods and stop the use of Mancozeb,” coming into play in January 2022, compliance will get more complicated. This is where technology that digitizes grape quality saves the day for exporters. 

AI is the key to building trust between grape traders.

When AI assesses the quality of your fruit, you get objective, accurate, and data-backed reports. Reports that pair quality parameters with corresponding images in one place. You can share the reports directly from the tool, eliminating needless paperwork and the cost of encoding data into Excel sheets

The traceability and auditability such a tool provides make the export cycle more transparent. It can be used to draw historical data, resolve conflicts and build trust. 

That you can also use the tool to reduce manual work, create standardized quality processes, monitor pack houses and workforce remotely are incidental benefits.  

Make 2022 an exceptional grape export season.

Grape exporters had a chaotic 2020 and an uncertain 2021. Yet, even with borders closed and shipping constraints, India exported grapes worth $323 million (approximately 267,000 MT). 32% of which, by volume, went to the European Union.

Fresh grape exports from India to the top 10 countries

(Source: APEDA)

2022 has no such limitations, and exporters to the EU can make it an exceptional grape season with Intello Track. The solution not only helps measure, record, and track quality but also provides both exporter and importer with powerful, structured quality reports, showcasing hygiene and compliance. 

Interested in seeing how Intello Track helps ease grape export and fetch a better price for your harvest? Book a demo

Saurabh Job

Written by Saurabh Job

Global Marketing Head at Intello Labs