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Grapes exported with glass, hair

Piece of broken glass bangles, human hair and chemical residue have forced some European countries to reject more than 3,500 containers of grapes grown in and exported from northern and western Maharashtra.

mumbai Updated: Apr 23, 2010 00:53 IST
Dharmendra Jore

Piece of broken glass bangles, human hair and chemical residue have forced some European countries to reject more than 3,500 containers of grapes grown in and exported from northern and western Maharashtra.

Exporters and farmers are likely to suffer losses of more than Rs 350 crore. An exporter from Nashik requesting anonymity told Hindustan Times that after bangle pieces and hair were found in some containers sent from Nifad in Nashik district, several European countries asked for a chemical analysis of the produce. “The chemical analysis established the presence of the leucine [a chemical plant growth regulator] residue beyond permissible limits in some batches,” the exporter said. “So they blocked all containers.”

Leucine, an amino acid, is found in several plant growth regulators that farmers use to enhance flowering and the size of the fruit. The chemical, if consumed excessively, can cause serious health problems in human beings.

A grape producer from Sangli blamed the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority and Pune-based National Research Centre for Grapes for not informing the farmers that the European Union had included leucine in the chemical residues’ list. The Nashik-based exporter blamed the owner of the cold storage facility at Nifad, without naming him, for engaging unskilled female labourers for packaging grapes.

A container holds 12 to 15 tonnes of grapes worth more than Rs 10 crore. The exporter said that the produce will have perished since most of the containers had reached foreign soil 10 to 12 days ago. “At least 500 containers are docked at Mumbai port and the rest are on their way to Europe.”

Nashik’s Member of Parliament, Samir Bhujbal, was aware of the problem. “The affected parties are expected to meet Union Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, and senior bureaucrats in New Delhi. I will accompany them to help resolve the issue because this will impact grape farming in the long-run,” Bhujbal said. He added that the produce stranded in Mumbai and Europe, if not allowed to off load, will perish in three days.