The Indian Grape Processing Board (IGPB), constituted with members from the industry as well as senior central government officials, is currently headless, office-less, and more importantly quite clueless on whether it still exists or stands disbanded.
The IGPB’s vice chairman Siraj Hussein, and secretary Venkatesh Swarlu, were transferred to other ministries earlier this year.
The term of the 15-member Board ended in February and on Mar 31, the IGPB vacated its office housed in the Western Maharashtra Development Corporation building in Pune.
As of now, there is no word on either the new incumbents or indeed the fate of the Board, and not even the former Chairman knows what IGPB’s current position is.
Set up around six years ago under the ministry of Food Processing (FP), government of India, IGBP’s mandate was to address industry problems and help promote grape products.
Nearly 80% of all grapes processed go into wine-making (the rest to raisins), and the stakeholders of the Board ranged from vintners, raisin producers, farmers, research institutes to the hospitality industry.
“There has been no communication from the Ministry of Food Processing on the status of the Board, and we are still waiting for some word from the cabinet,” rues Jagdish Holkar, who has just completed his tenure as Chairman of IGPB.
Both he and Sula Vineyards CEO Rajeev Samant have met up with the Union Minister of Food Processing Harsimran Kaur Badal, stressing the need to continue with the Board, but nothing concrete has emerged from them.
During the Board’s six active years, its initiatives included pushing for a uniform national wine policy, advocating single window clearances for setting up wine units, organising events to promote the wine industry in India and abroad and even trying for survival packages for the sick units.
“We had also started the procedure for simplifying excise laws for wine in various States,” says Holkar, adding that this work is still incomplete.
There are around 110 wineries in India (including 72 in Maharashtra), nearly half of which are sick and face a severe liquidity crunch.
Despite this, over 90% are functional, leading to the Indian wine industry pegging a growth of over 20 per cent to touch approximately 10-11 million litres of wine production during 2014-15.
The trend is expected to continue in the current year as well.
To work around the uncertainty surrounding the IGPB, Holkar says he plans to approach the government of Maharashtra to set up a wine board in the State.