Kangra tea crisis

PALAMPUR: Tea industry in Kangra valley has been passing through serious crises these days. Despite the fact that there was bumper tea crop in Kangra valley this year but there is no buyer for Kangra tea in the international and national market at Calcutta. Over three lakh kilograms of made tea is piling up in different part of the valley as well as with the brokers in Calcutta for the past one year, but no buyer has come forward to purchase the lots of Kangra tea.

The sudden fall in the demand of Kangra tea has not only caused concern among the tea growers here but it has also adversely affected the economy of this region of the state.

Crises in the tea industry has forced over one hundred tea growers in Kangra valley to abandon their tea gardens, as there is no buyer for their green tea leaves. Earlier Co-operative Tea Factories at Bir and Baijnath were buying their produce. Since these factories have either been closed or taken over by the private parties, therefore tea leaves from 500 acres of area under tea gardens could not be plucked this year.

Information gathered by this correspondent revealed that over 5000 persons have been rendered jobless in past three years because of closure of tea factory at Baijnath and Bir. Many growers in the valley are yet to receive the payment of their produce supplied to cooperative factories in the year between 2000 and 2006… In the absence of pruning and cutting of bushes the tea gardens were seen covered with thick buses and elephant grass. Though the government is well conversant with the situation but none has come forward for the rescue of tea growers so far.

The tea growers of the valley directly blame the previous BJP government, which adopted anti tea grower’s policies and discontinued various incentives being given to the growers by the government. Earlier the marketing and development of the tea industries was being looked after by the State Industries Department and tea growers were satisfied with the functioning of the industry department. But BJP government in its major policy decision attached the tea cultivation with agricultural department. Tea growers assert that it was a blunder on the part of government. Agriculture department badly failed to deliver the goods and it completely neglected the development and marketing of tea in the region. None in this department bothered in past four year to take care of this important tea industry of the area… There was no qualified staff in the agriculture department to handle the affairs.

Mr. K.G. Butail, a leading tea grower and president Kangra Valley Tea Growers Association says that the tea industry of the valley received two major set backs in past six years, first the government 0f India signed pact with WTO and tea was also included in it, secondly the state government discontinued the assistance being given to the growers for the past twenty years. In such circumstances it has become very difficult for the tea growers to survive and maintain their tea gardens.

In absence of sales of tea stocks, no payments have been made to the growers by the cooperative tea factories. Therefore, in many parts of the district, the small tea growers have left with no alternative except stop tea cultivation since it is no more a lucrative. The cultivation of tea in the valley was being replaced with different quality of grasses, which have proved more profitable to the growers.

In present scenario the cost of production of tea is much higher in India as compared to the teas produced in African countries and Siri Lanka, therefore in the international market there is no buyer for Indian teas. Though quality wise the Indian tea is very superior but price wise it cannot compete with the imported teas in the world market. Earlier the European Countries were the main buyers of Indian teas, but now they have preferred African teas since its rates are almost half than the tea grown in India.

A senior journalist from Palampur.

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