Following footsteps of the pro-active Maharashtra , Karnataka is ready to liberalise its wine policy for 2007-08. It is in the process of implementing a new draft wine policy that will de-link wine from spirits. The State Cabinet cleared it last Thursday and it is expected to be announced soon.
Government plans to bring more area under grape cultivation and promote wine market, by establishing two wine parks in the State. It has declared grape growing districts of Bangalore (Rural and Urban) and Kolar districts as Nandi Valley while Bijapur, Bagalkot, Belgaum districts as Krishna Valley .
Each valley will have its own wine park. The Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB) would acquire land to set up these parks.
About 9,700 hectares of area is already under grape cultivation in the State with an estimated annual production is 0.167 million tonnes. Besides the valley districts, farmers grow grapes in Koppal, Chikmagalur and Mysore districts. About 6,000 hectares is being cultivated for Thomson seedless variety only.
Nashik in the nearby Maharashtra already boast of a wine park, with 97 plots of average 2000 sq. mtrs. area. Sangli City , about 400 kms Southwest of Mumbai already has a 350 acre park, about 30 kms away from the city. Another one is already under construction.
The State produces three major varieties of grapes - Thomson seedless, Anab-E-Shahi Dilkush and Bangalore Blue (both Indian varieties used in table wines).
The policy would offer several financial incentives to grape growers and the entrepreneurs to set up wine manufacturing industries and processing units.
It would provide 50 per cent subsidy to adopt modern technology by wine manufacturing units. Union Government has been providing 25 per cent subsidy so far.
It plans to declare wine-production units as food processing industry and extend necessary concessions. Further, the licence-issuing procedure will be relaxed. Winery owners will be able to get licenses from the deputy commissioner's office within 30 days instead of chasing the excise department.
The government hopes wine tourism will be a hit, particularly in the serene Krishna Valley . "Bijapur and Belgaum are heritage centres, and since they are close to Goa , a lot of tourists flock there. Now, wine tours will be an added attraction," sources added. Apart from increasing grape cultivation, the government wants to encourage more wineries.
Bangalore has the third highest consumption of wines in India after Mumbai and Delhi . It consumed around 31,000 cases in 2006 compared to 100,000 cases in Mumbai and around 54,000 cases in Delhi , according to a study.
Domestic wines have witnessed an increase in sales by 33 per cent in Bangalore last year. The imported wine segment has reported a much less increase.
The new policy has no direct benefits for the sale of imported wines which may get an indirect boost due to increased wine consumption. Overseas producers planning to collaborate with the local producers will achieve more benefits.