In its recent State Cabinet meeting the Maharashtra Government took a fairly controversial stand in the favor of the wineries and grape farmers of the state by legalizing the sale of wine in supermarkets. This decision has stirred a unique flavor across Maharashtra leaving the masses in a blissfully dizzy state.
In his statement after a meeting of the State Cabinet, the Minister for Skill Development Nawab Malik said “The decision will give a boost to fruit-based wineries which provide additional income to farmers and wine producers in the State”
According to a statement released from the Chief Minister’s Office declared that a “shelf-in-shop” method is to be adopted in supermarkets and walk-in-stores with a spread of over 100 sqm. or more and are registered under the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments Act. For such establishments this comes along with an annual specified license fee of ₹5,000 for selling wine, earning the state close to a crore in sales fees.
Decision And The Restriction
Be that as it may, supermarkets in the vicinity of any and all places of worship or educational institutions cannot sell wine. Furthermore, the sale of wine will not be allowed in the districts where prohibition is in force.
Wine Industry In Maharashtra
As a pioneering state in this sector, Maharashtra contributes roughly around 65 percent in revenue to the country’s up-and-coming wine industry which is currently estimated at approximately ₹1,000 crores. And that is only from its close to 1,685 wine shops, with more opening as the year progresses.
With close to 110 wineries in India, Maharashtra has 72 across the state, scattered between districts of Sangli, Ahmednagar, Solapur, Buldhana, Pune, and Nashik. Among these districts, Nashik dominates the industry, accounting for over 80 percent of the wine produced and distributed in India. Out of all the wineries in the state, only 40 to 50 remain as the consistent producers. 15 to 20 of which are into direct marketing while the remaining others prefer contract manufacturing.
Topographically, Maharashtra is considered as the right fit with the weather and water balance, mineral content, and soil quality, for grape production. Being one of the leading producers, the state grows wine grapes on just 5,000-acre land, compared to 2.5 to 3 lakh acres for table grapes. On average, one kg of grapes can be used to produce around 600 ml of wine. Providing a larger domestic market for wine producers and grape farmers. Internationally, most grape cultivation takes place for wine production.
While this decision certainly brings moments of merriment for the grape farmers and wineries in aspects of economical ascension, it also shadows concern for some. A social activist from Ahmednagar earlier this week moved a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court challenging government’s decision.
Sandip Kusalkar, who runs an NGO called Yuvaan for youth empowerment and for underprivileged children, filed the PIL through advocate Filji Fredrick, claiming the state’s decision was directly contrary to the Government Resolution (GR) of August 17, 2011, which was aimed for de-addiction policy to curb proliferation addictions in youth.
The GR additionally talks of taking measures to discourage people from developing drinking habits, and more importantly, to bust the glorification of the social status consumption of alcohol is usually associated with. Gram Sabhas throughout the state are encouraged to establish de-addiction committees and propagate policies for de-addiction.
The concern over this decision comes from several public statements that say wine is not essentially liquor, that if the sales increase, farmers and local wine grape cultivators will be benefitted. Such statements may familiarize and popularize alcohol consumption among the masses which could very well spiral into a problem that may arise in the absence of regulation. There needs to be legal boundaries and caution around this selling and purchase of wine at such a scale this large.
Among these very plausible concerns, Maharashtra’s former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has come ahead to criticize this decision by saying doing so will turn Maharashtra into a liquor state. His exact words were, “We will not allow Maharashtra to become a Madhya-Rashtra.”
On the other hand, Jagdish Holkar, president of All Wine Producers Association (AIWPA) foresees the strengthening of the value chain and a boost in backward linkages as a result of a boost of wine sales – a win. In addition to that, the rural economy that primarily sustains the production and cultivation of wine grapes will boost. Similarly, the horticulture sector that uses other fruits and flowers to produce wine will benefit too – another win.
However, despite the concessions put on its consumption and purchase, the wine sales have not really picked up in the state, the leading reason being the lack of exposure to consumers at the moment. Since this decision to sell alcohol in supermarkets at consumers’ ease of access comes as very first, warming up to such purchase is yet to be seen.