Improve quality to revive Tripura tea industry: Experts

Agartala : A one-day seminar on ‘Development of Tripura tea Industry – Scope for Speciality Tea’ was recently organised here to revive the tea industry which during the last few years has not shown much growth.

Chief Minister Manik Sarkar was the chief guest at the seminar, which was organised by the Tripura Government’s Industry Department jointly with Laxmi Tea Company, at the Pragna Bhavan here.

M. Nagaraju, Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce of Tripura, said the main aim of this seminar is to convey the commitment of the state government for the development of the tea industry and the welfare of the workers in the tea sector.

“In Tripura, there are 52 tea gardens employing more than 12000 families, but despite that the industry has not grown much in the last few years. There is an international glut and Tripura tea is not commanding good price compared to other regions,” said Nagaraju.

“We wanted to identify the causes for the low price of the Tripura made tea and find solution to all the problems and also look at how the land allotted to tea gardens could be productively utilized,” he added.

Nagaraju further said that the small tea growers are doing well in Tripura compared to the big tea estate.

Chief Minister Sarkar in his address said one of the prime reasons behind average less tea production per hectare in Tripura compared to the national average is the non-utilization of allotted land to the non-government tea estates for plantation.

“We appeal to the private entrepreneur that if they are not utilizing the land earmarked to them for tea production then the state government shall very soon declare that area as wasted-land and shall be compelled to acquire it. We have already initiated the process and implemented it for few gardens,” he said.

Out of the total 14,092 square hectare earmarked for tea cultivation in Tripura, only 7,366 square hectare which stands to 52 percent is utilized for the purpose while 48 percent remains unutilized.

As a consequence, the average tea yield in the state is 1,043 kg per square hectare compared to the national average of 1,658 kg.

Sarkar suggested for maximum utilization of the land earmarked for tea to increase the average yield and for better profit to ensure the tea estates of the state survive in the competitive global market.

Meantime, other experts who participated in the seminar suggested that to revive the tea industry in the state the producers need to improve productivity, effect cost-reduction, adoption of better management practices and most important start production of quality tea, including organic tea, as demand for it is on rise.

Manoj Jallan, the chairman of North East Tea Association, said, “Basically the word quality has to find place in your mind first of all. You have to realize the ground reality today. It is quite different what it used to be 20 years back. Gradually the demand for quality tea and non-quality tea is further widening. The demand for good tea is going up and the demand for mediocre tea is going down.”

“So in case Tripura continues to be a laggard as far as quality is concerned I don’t find a future for Tripura tea. So it has to move up the quality ladder and quality will come. You have to look up for the entire package starting from the planting material to the soil preparation, to quality planting, good cultural practises, good plucking, good transporting and of course good processing,” he added.

He also said that like Assam, Tripura should also try to emphasise on small tea growers for quality production along with socio-economic development of the state.

Jallan further said that whatever growth the industry has witnessed after 1990 has entirely come from the small growers segment.

“In Assam, today estimated one lakh small growers are there producing about 250 million kg of tea which is about 40 percent of what is being produced in Assam. When we speak about the Northeast, well Assam today produce about 52 percent of the total Indian productions and if we add the other tea growing state of the Northeast we can add another 3 to 4 percent so it will be about 54-55 percent. So the other states have to lot of catching up to do,” he added.

“In Tripura I could understand the industry is almost 100 years old now but it contributes less than one percent of the total Indian production. So, Tripura would probably gain by following the Assam model,” said the chairman of North East Tea Association

Tripura is the fifth largest among 14 tea-producing states after Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

The Tripura Government, in collaboration with the Tea Board of India, plans to boost production by new plantations, rejuvenation, skill development, providing better irrigation and technical facilities.

“In Tripura we do have a scheme for organic and organic planting has 25 percent more subsidy then the normal subsidy. There is very good scope for the Northeast in the organic tea and lot of people are converting and the quantity of organic tea produce in the country is on the increase,” said Tea Board Director Sounderajan

He informed that the 12th Plan Scheme of the Tea Board has got a lot of schemes for both big growers as well as small growers and particularly for the small tea growers new planting subsidy has been announced along with setting of factory by SHG beside skill development under the HRD scheme.

The tea plantation started in Tripura’s Hiracherra Tea Estate in Kailasahar by people of East Bengal in 1916 under Royal Administration. At present, there are 52 operational tea estates (out of 58) in the state.

Some 12,000 families are directly employed in the tea estates while since 1994 another 4,346 small tea growers, including 2,483 tribals, are cultivating tea in 3406 square hectare area.

The small tea growers expressed that the seminar would be a boon for them and help in quality improvement for the produces and for better profit.

“This seminar will help in increasing tea production of Tripura along with its quality which has been the main point of discussion. Today if we want to capture the market we have to produce quality tea and various resource persons have discussed on this issue. This will surely benefit and boost the small tea growers towards producing quality tea,” said Harisankar Debnath, Secretary Small Tea Growers of Tripura.

Tripura’s annual tea production is around 8.66 million kg and contributes just one percent of the national production. Of late, the state also started producing some 4.45 million kg of green tea along with organic tea. (ANI)