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APEDA pitches in for Indian Wines in Thailand

Posted: Thursday, 12 September 2013 11:32

APEDA pitches in for Indian Wines in Thailand

Sep 12: The Indian governmental food export promotion agency APEDA has pitched in for Indian wines by showcasing a host of them at the Food and Hotel Thailand 2013 held on 4-7 September in Bangkok with a special wine evening organised at his residence by the Indian Ambassador in Thailand, Mr. Anil Wadhwa on 6th September

Click For Large ViewMr. Anil Wadhwa, the Indian Ambassador to Thailand organised an evening at his residence on September 6 where wines from Sula, Renaissance, Reveilo, Prathamesh, Rajdheer, Flamingo, Kalyani, Grover Zampa & Luca were showcased to a select gathering of Thai media, importers, F & B managers and socialites. He emphasised the need to import Indian wines because of the sizable Indian community that could help increase Indian exports, and promised to serve only Indian wines at the Embassy events.

The evening was a part of the organised participation of APEDA in the Food and Hotel Thailand food show with the presence of Mr. Navneesh Sharma DGM & Mrs. Vinita Sudhanshu AGM of APEDA. Although the Indian Grape Board (IGPB) was not an official part of the organization, S. K. Mohanty, Under-secretary MoFPI, was present as was Jagdish Holkar the Chairman of IGPB. Holkar clarified that the delegates paid their own expenses for the trip but were provided a free stall at the Show by APEDA which also offered them free logistics.

Thailand is generally considered an unattractive market infamous for its high taxes on wines which are bigger deterrents than even in India and the foreign producers are usually wary of this market. Although administration corruption according to the cognoscenti makes the wines available in the grey market at reasonable mark ups, taxes over 300% make it almost impossible for them to be available in regular retail or restaurants.

Gaggan Anand, the Chef owner of the restaurant of the upscale restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok, known for fusion Indian cuisine and a decent wine list, did not attend the event. ‘I couldn’t attend as it was the weekend when ours is a very busy restaurant. But the problem is that there are heavy taxes on wine here. The Thai wine policies are so uninviting. Even ordinary Thai wines are priced very high,’ he tells delWine. Gaggan would love to see Indian wines in Thailand all the same. ‘I wish they come so we feel even more proud of our country.’

The leading producer Sula is not very enthusiastic about the market although they did send a couple of cases of wines as solidarity behind the Wines of India brand-building event. Cecilia Oldne, Global Brand Ambassador, Head of International Business and Communications for Sula and recently selected as one of the Top Ten Women of Wine 2013 List by the Indian Wine Academy, says, ‘we showcased our Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Shiraz and Dindori Shiraz at the Show. Thailand is a market we are looking at introducing our wines in at some point but not on priority. One challenge in Thailand is their high import taxes - one of the world’s highest at 390%. There is no such thing as a free trade agreement between Thailand and India but there is a tariff advantage for Australian and New Zealand wines with 295% and 275% respectively.’

Regarding their priorities, she further adds, ‘In Asia, we have instead focused our efforts on China, also being one of the fastest growing wine consuming markets. Our first consignment to China will be leaving this month for a launch in October. With the support of the IGPB we will also be participating in HCTDC in Hong Kong in November.’

One producer who is not afraid of the high taxes is Nirvana Biosys, which manufactures wine in Haryana from the imported grape juice concentrate and is increasingly establishing itself as a fruit wine producer. He was a part of the 11-member delegation that reportedly went to Thailand on their own expense, barring perhaps the two delegates from APEDA which had organised the event.

According to a report in the Times of India that erroneously described him a vineyard owner, (Indian media is still not clear about the difference between vineyards where grapes are grown and the winery where grapes or other fruits are fermented to make wine) the owner, Dr. J P Gupta said what the west offered were Lychee or Mango flavoured wines made from grapes. 'Western people cheated India. They said only grapes can make wine.’

Not to be bogged down by high taxes, Holkar tells delWine that Ambassador Wadhwa has promised to look into an FTA between Thailand and India in order to make wines more affordable. If one were to look at the current talks between India and EU going on for the last 8 years and now rumoured to take a back seat for another year due to the general election, the Indian industry may do well not to be over-optimistic. Holkar counters by saying that in any case, India is at the initial stages of exports and one needs to do a lot of hard work to move in the right direction to create an image, a step mooted by delWine for several years now.

Click For Large ViewDelWine has also since long been an active promoter of the concept of Indian wines being served at all the Indian State functions at the various embassies where there is a potential wine market as well as at the State functions of the President and the Government of India. This will help promote Brand India in the long term and possible sales of the wines being served, on a short to medium term basis, thus boosting the grape farming in India and helping to increase employment.

It is also a good sign that the wine producers, IGPB and APEDA are coming together on a common platform to create Brand India and increase wine exports. With the Indian rupee at an unprecedented low, there is a big opportunity and although it may be very ambitious to increase the exports by 100% in two years, from the current $5 million to $10 million as Ambassador Wadhwa informed the gathering in Thailand, we have only scratched the surface on wine exports. Wine can be a big foreign exchange earner in decades to come. Though an event in Thailand is not likely to yield any direct results in the near future, it would hopefully encourage many such events in future. We raise a glass to toast Ambassador Anil Wadhwa for a step in the right direction.

Subhash Arora

Tags: APEDA, Food and Hotel Thailand 2013, Bangkok, Thailand, Anil Wadhwa, Gaggan, Brand India


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