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    Rural India catches up on the wine spirit

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    Wine drinking, especially in the low-cost category, is fast catching on among the rural youth of the country with sales touching Rs 300 crore up to December last, and likely to be Rs 500 crore by March this year, showing that drinking wine is not confined to metro cities, says a survey.

    The survey by the , based on feedback received from domestic wine manufacturers, predicts that by March 2008 total wine sales countrywide would exceed Rs 1,400 crore.

    The change in consumption pattern has been primarily because of health reasons, with a large segment of younger and elderly population switching over from hard liquor.

    In rural India the sale of low-cost wine is increasing rapidly, while in urban areas imported wine is gradually picking up leading to a 35 per cent growth of the wine industry, as against less than 20 per cent about four to five years ago, says the study.

    The total wine sales up to December 2007 countrywide was estimated around Rs 1,000 crore, said President Venugopal N Dhoot.

    These trends indicate that just as urban youth has taken to wine, their rural counterparts too have developed a taste for it due to availability of low-cost wine made by manufacturers in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

    According to Dhoot, by the end of the current fiscal, over 8.5 million litres of wine is expected to be sold nationwide – of which the intake in rural areas is likely to be over 3.5 million litres.

    By mid-December 2007, about 6.5 million litres of wine was sold, of which the sale of low-cost wines in rural areas was estimated to be around 2.75 million litres.

    The survey said wine sales in 2005-06 comprised 650,000 cases, which grew by 55,000 cases in 2006-07 and until December 2007, wine sales was estimated around 800,000 cases. Out of total wine sales, 45 per cent was imported with 15 per cent to 30 per cent of it being from France and Italy.

    The growth of the wine industry was three times that of the liquor industry, which was growing around 10 per cent to 12 per cent despite the social campaign to discourage their consumption, the survey said.

    Indians consumed nearly 220 million cases of beer and 60 million cases of whisky and other spirits in fiscal 2005-06. Consumption quantity grew by nearly 10 per cent in 2006-07, touching over 240 million cases of beer and about 70 million cases of whisky and other spirits, the survey found.

    The growing popularity of wine was because the cost for opening and setting up of wine plants with capacity of around one lakh litre was about Rs 10-15 million, attracting many Indian and foreign entrepreneurs to foray into this market, the survey said.

    – Sri Krishna