The Darjeeling crop has fallen due to low productivity partially caused by climate change: Chairman of Indian Tea Exporters Association
Chairman of Indian Tea Exporters Association (ITEA) Anshuman Kanoria on Thursday claimed that the Darjeeling tea industry is a "patient in ICU", but also asserted that there is still hope for revival.
For the Darjeeling tea industry to survive, some government support such as a one-time cash injection to bring hope and arrest the sale of gardens is needed in the form of subsidy which will help stave off the threat posed by tea from Nepal, he said.
He said Darjeeling tea is India’s flag bearer and besides cash injection, a minimum import price needs to be slapped on imports from Nepal.
Speaking at a session organised by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) here, Kanoria also said a concerted generic promotion to create market access is required.
"Darjeeling tea is an emotion for us. It flows in our blood. Today, the Darjeeling tea industry is a patient in ICU, virtually in its death bed," he said.
The closure of the gardens due to political agitation in 2017, followed by lockdowns had caused huge financial loss to the industry as a whole, Kanoria said.
He said, "A lot of foreign buyers had been turned away and this gave an opportunity to our neighbour (Nepal) to capture some of the some of the export market".
Kanoria said the challenge of Nepal has become serious as it is infiltrating the Indian market.
"With the Darjeeling crop down to 6.5 million kilograms per annum, the production in Nepal has gone up to six million kilograms. We have a serious competitor now," he noted.
The Darjeeling crop has fallen due to low productivity partially caused by climate change, he said, adding the Nepal tea industry comprising mostly small factories is run unlike that in India which is governed by the Plantations Labour Act.
"Darjeeling has become a high-cost operation with 60 per cent of the cost emanating from wages to labourers. Most of the Darjeeling gardens are losing to the tune of Rs 200 per kilogram with each garden losing a few crores," he said.
Kanoria said that some support from the government is needed for the Darjeeling tea industry to survive.
“The current outlook is bleak but with government support and commitment of planters who love Darjeeling, there can be hope for a cure,” the ITEA chief said.
The interventions sought from the government include a one-time cash injection to bring hope and arrest the sale of gardens with real estate players being only buyers, imposing a minimum import price on Imports from Nepal to check dumping into India and checks to ensure compliance with Indian laws.
“With saturation and financial issues in key markets, the top two markets that should be tapped initially are India domestic and China. If consumers are educated and made aware of Darjeeling tea, China alone can consume a large part of Darjeeling production,” Kanoria said.