Not brewing right

  • 14/08/2006

Not brewing right TEA from the Darjeeling hills are among the most celebrated varieties in the country. Combination of geo-environmental and agro-climatic conditions in the region makes production favourable for the tea industry, which has been producing tea for over 150 years now. But the industry is fraught with problems, which are affecting the output adversely.

Hiccups There are several issues that plague the industry today: sickness, closure or lock ups, tea gardens being abandoned, frequent violence and strikes across tea gardens; wage, education, health and livelihood issues of workers; crop productivity, old tea bushes, degradation and depletion of local ecology in and around tea plantations; intellectual property rights; decreasing value of Darjeeling tea in global markets and competition from countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal and Japan are among the problems.

On an average, the total production of tea in the hills has varied between 8 million kg and 11 million kg in the last decade. The industry roughly generates about Rs 150-200 crore annually. A major part of the annual production of Darjeeling tea is exported. Key buyers include Germany, Japan, the uk, the us, and other eu countries.

There has been a continuous decline in the production of tea and per hectare (ha) yield in the last 50 years. During the 1960s and 1970s, Darjeeling used to produce over 15 million kg of tea. The decline has been drastic since the mid 1990s. Today, the region produces less than 9 million kg of tea and the yield at present is below 550 kg per ha, which is far below the national average of over 1,750 kg per ha.

Blocks In the world market, about 50 million kg of tea is supplied as

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