Agri Business

Small tea growers hit by price crash

L N Revathy Coimbatore | Updated on January 10, 2018

COIMBATORE, 14/06/2008: The tea garden at Adderley Estate about 12 kilometres from Coonoor, owned by Glendale Estates. Photo: K. Ananthan 14/06/2008



Small growers of tea in the Nilgiris appear a troubled lot as they are compelled to offload the green leaf at a distress.

“The recent rain spell has been good for the crop and the yield. But the price that we get for the green leaf is pathetic. As against our cost of ₹14 to ₹15 a kg, which includes plucking and transportation cost and other overheads, we get less than ₹10, and this is a huge blow for us,” said S Ramu, founder-chairman, Small Tea Growers Association of Southern India.

They are caught between the need to pluck to keep the bushes intact on one hand and not being able to get a fair return for the leaf on the other.

‘No parity in price’

Ramu said prices have crashed to about ₹6-₹7 a kg from ₹18 to ₹20 a kg three months back. “There is no parity in the price and we do not know what to do,” he said.

Industry sources, however, observed that some tea growers in Kotagiri area have switched to coffee and other horticultural crops in recent times. Recapping the scenario during the Commodity Outlook session on Tea at the annual meet of United Planters Association of South India, C Paulrasu, Executive Director, Tea Board, noted that the area under tea (all India), though next only to China in world ranking, had stagnated at 0.58 million hectares over the last 5-6 years.

Tea’s reach widens

The board’s survey confirms that while certain areas were moving out of tea, newer geographies were coming under tea such as Bihar, Uttaranchal, Sikkim and Manipur, among others.

“Fifteen States grow tea in India, with Assam accounting for 52 per cent of the total production, followed by West Bengal (29 per cent), Tamil Nadu (11 per cent), Kerala (5 per cent), and the remaining three per cent from other States.”

“Tea exports from India have also stagnated and the productivity registered a decline,” he said, and attributed the declining yield to ageing tea bushes.

Referring to the situation in the South, he said, “there are 246 large estates and 333 tea factories (of which 185 have been categorised as bought-leaf factories and the remaining 148 as estate factories). Around 9.40 lakh workers depend on these estates for employment”.

Published on September 15, 2017

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