A bitter brew for the tea sector as production dips 14 per cent
By Pramod Thomas | Express News Service | Published: 14th April 2017 05:00 AM |
KOCHI: Drought, lack of financial viability, low yield and labour unrest have led to closure of as many as 12 tea plantations spread over4,000 hectares. In West Bengal, 10 tea gardens closed down while in Kerala, two shut shop. At a time when tea production in India moved south, closure of plantations has put additional pressure on growers. Tea production dipped 20.96 per cent to 13.54 million kg in February against 17.13 million kg a year ago, mainly because of poor rains.
The closed plantations include Dheklapara (197 ha), Bundapani (530 ha), Dharanipur (265 ha), Redbank (369 ha), Surendranagar (172 ha), Madhu (323 ha) and MMJ Plantations- Kottamala (678 ha).
“At present, 12 tea gardens are closed in the country. The condition of tea gardens is monitored regularly by the central government through the Tea Board to facilitate reopening of the closed gardens. The government of India has requested the state government to provide the benefits of social and economic development/welfare schemes to all tea growing areas.
The state governments concerned have been taking several steps for revival of the closed gardens,” Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in the Rajya Sabha on April 5.
According to government statistics, tea yield in the country is 1,700-2,000 kg per hectare. If one goes by this estimate, the closure of these estates would affect over 74 lakh kg of tea production.
“The issue with plantations in these areas is that they are not viable due to increase in labour cost and low price of produce. Besides, the yield dropped by 25-30 per cent in the past five years. Another issue is the severe drought in the country. The workers in these estates may sell some tea to agents. But, they could not market it in a big way,” said N Dharmaraj, former president, United Planters’ Association of Southern India.
Non-functioning of these plantations has taken away as many as 7,600 direct and indirect jobs in these states. The West Bengal government has cancelled land lease of Bundapani, Redbank, Dharanipur and Surendranagar tea estates and taken possession of the land to find out new entrepreneurs. Panighata, Manabari, Joybirpara and Kumlai estates were closed due to labour unrest.