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Four Seasons plans equity participation for grape farmers

Four Seasons plans equity participation for grape farmers

Mumbai: Four Seasons Wines Ltd, the wine-making arm of the country’s largest liquor company UB Group, said Friday it is planning a preferential allotment of equity to grape suppliers in and around the Maharashtra district of Baramati.

The first equity participation of its kind in the Indian wine sector will ensure Four Seasons a regular supply of wine-grade grapes, replacing the existing contract-farming model.

The company, which has around 600 acres of vineyards through contract farming, will offer 500 shares of Rs10 each per acre of cultivation, said Abhay Kewadkar, chief wine-maker and a director of Four Seasons.

“We have already received responses from about 1,000 farmers," he said. The size of equity dilution in Four Seasons “will be significant," though United Spirits Ltd, the spirits company of UB Group, will hold the controlling stake in the wine company, Kewadkar said.

The company expects the acreage of its total grape cultivation to increase to 2,500-3000 acres in the next 3-5 years as its winery in Roti village near Baramati will run at the full capacity of 1.5 million cases by then.

“Through the equity offer, the company plans to enter into at least 15-year contractual agreements with local farmers for around 2,000 acres of vineyards over the next 3-5 years for its crushing requirements," Kewadkar said.

“But, the company will ensure that the land under grape cultivation is suitable for wine-grade grapes, and also the quality of the crop," he said.

Four Seasons will share its technical expertise with these farmers and help them in viticulture, or the science of grape production, and other infrastructure requirements such as irrigation facilities.

The project will ensure direct and indirect employment for about 1,500 people in the next 2-4 years, the company said in a statement.

UB Group runs its wine business through two companies—United Vintners Ltd and Four Seasons Wines. While United Vintners imports and markets wines from all over the world, Four Seasons produces and markets Indian wines under the brand names Zinzi and Four Seasons.

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