Guwahati, June 13: As you enjoy your hot cup of tea within the confines of your house or office or standing in front of a roadside stall, do remember to thank the small tea growers, who are making sure to provide you with the best quality leaves for that perfect taste, in spite of all odds.
The small tea growers, who till recently were considered as outsiders in the profitable tea business sector, is slowly capturing the market. Finally, the small tea growers have made it "big" as their share is stated to be 44 per cent of the entire industry.
According to the latest figures released by the Tea Board of India the share of small tea growers is 44.01 per cent. "The share of small tea growers from north India (Assam, Bengal and others) is 44.08 per cent while that from south India is 43.64 per cent," as per the board.
The small tea growers are those cultivators who grow tea within an area up to 10.12 hectares.
A tea industry official told The Telegraph that the small tea growers were now a huge force to reckon with and their share would soon increase to 50 per cent. In order to further encourage the small time growers to expand their business, chairman of the board, Prabhat Kamal Bezbaruah, said a new mechanism would have to be worked out.
"Some funds will have to be transferred to the small tea growers or the system will have to be changed," he said. Bezbaruah insisted that small tea growers had to improve the green leaf quality to capture the international market.
"A new system will have to be devised by the Tea Board so that the quality of Indian tea improves and maximum residue limits (MRLs) are within permissible limits so that every kilo of tea is exportable. If Kenya and Sri Lanka, the two largest tea exporting countries of the world, can maintain quality and MRLs in spite of having more than 70 per cent of production from the green tea leaves of small tea growers, then why not India? But a new holistic approach will have to be put in place," Bidyananda Barkakoty, the adviser to the North Eastern Tea Association and chairman of the Advisory Committee of Small Tea Growers of Tea Board of India said.
Bhabendra Mohan Borgohain, the secretary of the Organic Small Tea Growers Association, Assam, rued the fact that schemes of the board have failed to benefit the small tea growers. "The schemes take a long time for the growers to get the benefit," he said.
According to a survey, small tea growers take great risk to be a part of the market, fight adverse weather and climatic conditions, weeds and infestations and cost of labour, to name a few impediments to be a part of the industry.
"In some cases, tea growers' earnings were below national and international poverty line indicators. Therefore, if their concerns were not properly addressed, then rural poverty, unemployment and food insecurity would increase and urban drift would accelerate," the survey added.