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Covid crisis turns grape business sour for Odaipatti growers
Grape growers in Odaipatti village of Uthamapalayam block in Theni district have been facing an unprecedented situation as they were denied access to their grape vines.
Since Odaipatti has been declared a COVID-19 containment zone, the village, where COVID-19 positive cases were reported, was cordoned off in the recent past.
According to S Kalanidhi, a grower of seedless grape variety in Odaipatti, this time is very crucial for watering grape vines. If watering schedule is not maintained properly, the long-term grape vineyards would wither and turn brown, affecting the fortunes of the stakeholders relying on grape cultivation. Hence, priority should be accorded to farm cultivation and grape growers should be exempted from the lockdown restrictions.
Though permit pass has been provided by the Department of Horticulture, the police personnel have disregarded it completely and grape growers were disallowed, ultimately.
Another grower, Muthusamy from the village, feared that Odaipatti, which’s known for quality of seedless grape variety, could lose its identity if crops were not allowed to flourish.
Moreover, plants were exposed to the risk of fungal attack after recent rains. As it’s a legitimate concern, the authorities should at least permit grape growers instead of letting farm labourers to water the plants, which are mostly covered with drip irrigation, and apply fungicide, he said.
Pruning was mostly done in vineyards 20 days ago and around 150 acres have reached flowering stage now. Since watering was not done over the last four days, flowers started shedding and vines almost on the verge of withering. Normally, when weather conducive and better management practices were carried in vineyards, a cluster would have a maximum of 200 berries. If such timely practices were not followed properly, it would certainly affect the yield, an aggrieved grower Chandrasekar said.
Sources from the Horticulture Department said about 320 hectares of grape vineyards are in Odaipatti. Though grapes were drought tolerant, watering is essential at times of flowering and fruiting stage.
Sources from the Revenue Department, when contacted, said Odaipatti is a small village, where 15 COVID-19 positive cases have been reported. All restrictions were made in the containment zone only in the interest of people in all walks of life to prevent further spread. If the locality was contained well and positive cases were not reported for the next two days, they would be allowed to resume activities in vineyards, sources said.