It’s a sour season for grape farmers in Tamil Nadu

THENI: On the Cumbam-Kumily national highway, the vineyards have lost their luscious vibe. The unprecedented rise in temperature has left the valley parched and the ‘grapes city of south India’ lies in a shambles. The past month has been horrible for grape farmers of Tamil Nadu as the heatwave aborted the flowers, which will have a huge impact on the yield of the fruit this year. Instead of the usual 12 to 15 tonnes per acre, the farmers are expecting two to three tonnes this season, marking almost 80% fall in the yield.

Theni is one of the largest producers of Muscat Hamburg (panneer thiratchai) — a grape variety extremely popular among farmers because of its quick growth. In contrast to other fruits, this variety of grape is available in the market throughout the year.

Fertile soil and availability of water are the only requirements for the enhanced flavour of the fruit, largely used to make the best of wines, jams, and raisins. Nearly 90% of the state’s panneer thiratchai cultivation is in Cumbum valley of Theni, while the remaining 10% is at Kodai Road in Dindigul and in parts of Coimbatore district.

Apart from panneer thiratchai, Odaipatti area in Theni district is popular for its varieties of seedless grapes. Interestingly, seedless grapes are grown only in this area of the state.

Farmers of both panneer thiratchai and seedless grapes are in distress as heavy loss is expected this year due to poor yield.

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