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Posted: Tuesday, 09 November 2010 10:43

Clueless Ministry, Directionless Board

It is about to be two years since the inception of Indian Grape Processing Board was formed amidst lot of fanfare, it is high time industry veterans should take stock of what has been achieved so far or where are we heading for, writes Rajiv Seth.

It took several months by Ministry of Food Processing to find a suitable name for IGPB, The name itself fell short of industry’s expectations when Ministry even desisted calling it a wine board. However, as soon as the Karnataka Wine Board was formed the Ministry’s cautious approach and fears proved unfounded.

Informed sources point out that in twenty months period, since its inception, the Board has its meeting only 4 to 5 times. Perhaps the bureaucratic hierarchy was too busy for finding any creative time for Indian wine industry.

The most important task for any wine board in the world is probably the Formation of Country’s wine laws or Technically Known to wine industry insiders as “The standards for Wines” and the “rules for regulating oenological practices and processes”. By now the Board should have formed its various other guidelines as well for assignments like the few mentioned below.

Preparing frame work of “Guidelines for labeling of wines of vitivinicultural origin
Preparing a frame work of “standards for Indian Grape Wine export eligibility requirements.”

Drafting of a “generic HACCP application for the production of grape wine.”

Preparing frame work of “standards for labeling imported wines.”

Preparing a guide for “chemical analysis requirements for meeting standards of wine intended to be exported to EU destinations.”

“Setting up of a high-tech analytical laboratory for Indian wine industry”

These are only a few of the tasks which should have been completed by now, but it seems the Ministry is struggling in the dark to find out in whose jurisdiction these tasks will fall and in the process a lot of precious time has already been lost.

According to some reports the assignment of “Indian standards for Wines and the rules for  regulating oenological practices and processes” is being handed over to either FSSAI (Food Standard and Safety Authority of India) or CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard and Control Department).

To begin with let us examine some facts relating to handling of this single assignment so that industry members can take an informed decision and at the same time understand that, this kind of work is beyond the scope and understanding of such government authorities who have had limited or virtually no exposure to such assignments. On the other hand, such a hasty decision will not only result in unnecessary delays but has the potential to cause great embarrassment to our wine industry in international wine academics circles.

It is a common understanding that the FSSAI has been created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption. Thus it is clear the authority of FSSAI which is mandated through FSS Act 2006 is limited to food items (Fruits, Vegetables Oil Products, Edible Oil Packaging, Meat Food products, Milk and Milk Products, and Bakery Products) and in no way extends to Alcoholic Beverages and its distribution, which is a state subject in India.

Furthermore, the subject of wine regulations is not just forming the maximum or minimum limits of permitted Additives, and for that matter preventing adulteration in its composition. It is far beyond all this and covers aspects such as Regulating Oenological Practices,  winery systems, blending and labeling guidelines etc. and all these have to be in line with guidelines of OIV and other members of WWTG.

On the other hand CDSCO was formed under the Drug and Cosmetics Act 1940, and under its constitution, the regulation of manufacture, sale and distribution of Drugs is primarily the concern of the State authorities while the Central Authorities are responsible for approval of New Drugs, Clinical Trials in the country, laying down the standards for Drugs, control over the quality of imported Drugs, coordination of the activities of State Drug Control Organizations and providing expert advice with a view of bringing about the uniformity in the enforcement of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. 

From the above explained jurisdiction of FSSAI and CDSCO it is clear that both these government agencies are in no way perceived to be dealing with the regulations on Wines and for that matter any other Alcoholic Beverage, what so ever.

The member of this board and the MFPI, must know that the enzyme preparations used in winemaking must comply with the specifications recommended by JECFA (joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) and by FCC (Food Chemical Codex) for food enzymes. The OIV takes decisions on analysis methods and on enological applications and treatments.

Now, we are aware that MFPI Through its Compulsory legislation directives, formed under Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1954 has formed a list of Additives and Standards of Food Additives, and these Additives and their standards are in line with the International Food Chemical Codex. So we are being already informed what permitted additive we have at our disposal to be used during wine making.  But the wine laws are not about the permitted additives, it is about their permissible limits according to the International wine laws and the laws prevailing in target export markets.

Now there are a number of Additives or products which are only of Oenological importance and are not covered in MFPI list, and have been approved by the OIV for the purpose of wine making. These products and Additives are listed in International Oenological Codex of OIV. For example, BENTONITES,   CALCIUM CARBONATE, FISH GLUE,  GRAPE SUGAR, OENOLOGICAL TANNINS, POTASSIUM SORBATE, POTASSIUM HYDROGEN TARTRATE, PIECES OF OAK WOOD, WOOD FOR WINE CONTAINERS, POTASSIUM SORBATE, POTASSIUM ALGINATE, OXYGEN, NITROGEN, MALIC  ACID, METATARTARIC ACID, LYSOZYME, KAOLIN,  LIQUID SULFUR DIOXIDE, GUM ARABIC, ACTIVE DRY YEAST, AMMONIUM CHLORIDE, AMMONIUM HYDROGEN SULFITE, AMMONIUM SULFATE, ARGON, to name a few.

Members of the board and the Ministry should be informed that, beyond all the above explanations, The Wine Laws of a nation are about common code of the definitions of vitivinicultural products and acceptable or unacceptable oenological practices and treatments. The present pending work constitutes a technical and legal reference document, aiming at a standardization of products of the vitivinicultural sector that should serve as a foundation for the establishment of national or supra-national regulations and should be essential in international trade.

Those members who are vintners themselves must agree with this viewpoint as they are informed about the various steps during the process of vinification or wine making. For example there are special by-laws approved by OIV, regarding, the Control of the sugar content of grapes, Control of the sugar content of the harvested grapes, reverse osmosis, addition of sugar, addition of water, processes of chaptalisation,  Treatment with yeast ghosts,  Interruption of alcoholic fermentation by physical procedures, Cold stabilization treatment, Sulphiting, Fortification, and so on. Thus it is clear that as vintners we have to take these decisions and not any Government agency can decide about them, as it is beyond their scope of understanding, at this point of time.

Thus, the members of this board, on their own should initiate the formation of a committee of consultants who are well versed in international wine legislation and various other tasks which are lying pending in the overall confused scenario. For example, at various platforms it has been desired that Indian wine industry should have a central marketing agency but till date despite a consensus, there is a lack of initiative on part of Board and Ministry to go ahead with the task and engage marketing and other consultants.

Globally, such assignments are either the collective responsibilities of the industry bodies like the one in Canada, where the vintners took the responsibility themselves and formed “Vintners Quality Alliance” VQA and afterwards formed regulatory and appellation system which guarantees the high quality and authenticity of origin for Canadian wines or the Government bodies formed to support the industry through research and supportive work like the one in Australia where Australian Wine and Brandy corporation in coordination with Australian Wine and Research Institute, “AWRI”, together work in coordination for the industry and control the entire work of certification for the industry.

However, considering the small size and scales of our domestic wine industry, it seems highly unlikely that IGPB in near future will be able to support an organization like the one of AWRI or The Wine Institute , simply because of the constraints in its budgetary allocations by the ministry.

Few of the old timers in Indian wine industry might recall that a team of winemakers from All India Wine Producers Association under the leadership of Mr.V.S.Dhumal, Principal Secretary (Industries), Government of Maharashtra had finalized the Specifications of Indian Wines and forwarded the same to Bureau of Indian Standards for their approval about 8 years ago. What exactly happened to those regulations is not a common knowledge, but those regulations could not come into force.

 So even after eight years of lingering Indian wine industry is still struggling to have its Wine Laws enforced. From AIWP to BIS to MFPI to IGPB to FSSAI to CDSCO, our great Red Tape prone bureaucracy is still shivering to take on the responsibility.

What is most amazing is how we describe IGPB, well we call it an Autonomous Body, only on paper. The reality is that it is a toothless body, guided by clueless bureaucracy- yes they are clueless because it is the shortsightedness of our industry to expect a bureaucrat to understand the needs of our industry from a person coming straight from a background like the Indian Railways or the Coal ministry, or the Handloom ministry that too for a period of one or the two years at the most.

Few in the industry may recall that in the year 2006, a feasibility study had been carried out with the support of the Italian Ministry for Industry and of the Italian Trade Commission, with the purpose to evaluate the establishment of a “Service Centre for the wine cluster in Maharashtra”.  This Service Centre was to avail for itself, the experience that CRPV (Vegetable Production Research Centre) has developed in Italy and, with the assistance of Science and Technology Park Centuria RIT, should lead to technology transfer of viticultural and oenological know-how to Maharashtra wine cluster.

As a spin-off of this project, cooperation went on with Maharashtra authorities and in the run up the representatives of the Maharashtra Government  and of agencies of the wine sector visited Italy, and in particular Emilia-Romagna that  is  characterized  by  an  important wine industry cooperative  system.

Considering the strong need to supply technical services for the development of the wine sector in Maharashtra, a Memorandum of Understanding between Maharashtra and Emilia-Romagna organizations operating in the wine sector was signed.  The Memorandum of Understanding aims at the creation of a service centre in India  that  can  transfer  the  Emilia-Romagna  know- how and  adapt  it to  the  Indian  conditions.  The Service Centre, in fact is foreseen in the Memorandum of Understanding as a  permanent  link  between  the  two  clusters  and  as  a  provider  of  real  services  for  Maharashtra wine industry. MIDC, the nodal agency declared by Maharashtra government for wine industry was to carry the whole exercise. Now after four years the project has not seen the light of the day because of the enormous hurdles created by the state bureaucracy.

One more interesting fact related to the formation of IGPB was the manner in which its budgetary allocation was decided. According to informed sources, the Board was allocated just Rs.6 crores (Rs. 60 million), for a period of two years after which it is expected to raise its funding through various functions, now through this allocation it is expected to construct its building, office, of course  with facilities like conference room etc. and a High- tech laboratory for Indian wine industry which can facilitate research work also.

The big question now is how the officials at Ministry can come to the conclusion without even preparing a feasibility study of the funding requirements of IGPB where laboratory instruments like Grape gene bank, Gas Chromatography Mass Spectroscopy instruments and instruments like OenoFoss could cost enormous amounts.Our elected representative can decide to spend four hundred crores (Rs. 4 billion) on reconstruction of Delhi pavements, a few hundred  on Planters to decorate Delhi during Common wealth Games, but allocation of a few crores for some research works for an expanding and struggling industry, which will ultimately empower grape growers with economic leverage, sounds irrelevant to them.

Viewers should also be informed that an offer to help the Indian wine industry on research projects was also made by AWRI (Australian Wine and Research Institute) and it is still struggling to find a way through Indian bureaucracy and in all probability is likely to be declined.

All one needs to do is to read documents like the Direction 2025 of Australian wine industry, or How Chile got it Right, and one fine day you will discover that merely securing a stall at London Wine Fair on subsidized rate may not land us anywhere.

Rajiv Seth

The views expressed here are independent and those of the author and not delWine-editor



Alok Chandra Says:

A very useful historical perspective, and one which one hopes the current incumbants in the IGPB seize upon. Part of the problem is a lack of "institutional expertise" - as officials are transferred every 2 - 3 years, and the new people rarely have a good brief on what's been done in the past. I was at the HK Fair last week - only 5 Indian companies participted, a really poor show.

Posted @ November 11, 2010 11:59


Ashwin Rodrigues Says:

Great article Rajiv. I'm connected with Renaissance Winery, and I'm appalled to see how easily the IGPB sponsors foreign jaunts which haven't yielded any sales (as expected by those in the know). Instead, how about having 20 wine fairs each year in Mumbai for starters? (one in each suburb). That will be cheaper and generate REAL publicity which will be converted into sales for us. It's a simple idea but the money will be well spent.

Posted @ November 10, 2010 13:47


Debra Meiburg Says:

Excellent article Rajiv. Very interesting and, sigh, very frustrating. Thank you for speaking out. Would love to see the IGPB move forward. A robust domestic industry always boosts the wine market overall. China, too, needs to sort out many of these issues before the markets can mature.

Posted @ November 10, 2010 10:45


Rajiv Seth Says:

Mr. Arora, The purpose of this artical is not to criticize the working of Ministry or IGPB, but certainly the article aims to guide the concerned officials who are otherwise not from wine industry background. It is therefore advised to them that they engage people from wine industry background, since wine industry has different requirements and parameters from other Food processing industries. - Rajiv Seth

Posted @ November 10, 2010 10:40


Subhash Arora Says:

Rajiv, you have made some interesting points that would need clarification from the bureaucrats, which you may never get. It has been really frustrating to see the government dilly dally over just the name of the Board which could well have been Indian Vine and Wine Board. Given their socio-political compulsions, one can understand the government’s apathy- to- hostility towards wine. But I think despite the name delay, the Board has been able to achieve a few things. It is commendable that they took the decision to join OIV super-fast, realizing the benefits like you are mentioning yourself. The approval is awaiting the MEA permission, which is expected any moment. I have met some senior officials and they are brilliant and do have fine vision. Although I may be immodest and say that Indian Wine Academy was the first to organize participation of India under the national flag at Wine for Asia in Singapore 4 years ago, it was the Board that managed to have the producers participate at the Hong Kong Trade Show last year. London Fair participation would not add millions to the export kitty but at this point it is equally important for the wine world to know that India is producing good wine. I have met several journalists abroad who told me that they were surprised to see India at the Show and even more surprised to find that the wines were quite drinkable. We need to keep on bringing out the weakness and tardiness in the system, be it the ministry, excise department or the IGPB but we should also mark the continuous progress in the right direction, however slow. Bold and well written article, though. Subhash Arora

Posted @ November 09, 2010 15:48




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