The tea plantations of Darjeeling, which had been developed in the 19th century under the British Raj to reduce dependence on China for tea, are now suffering from an economic crisis, and more than half of the tea plantation owners are on the verge of becoming bankrupt. Amidst such circumstances, the Tea Board of India, which is the regulator of tea trade, has asked the Centre for a special 988 crore rupees package.
In India, which is the second largest producer of tea in the world after China, 55 thousand labourers are associated with this sector. Currently, the tea gardens are facing two major problems; one, cheap tea from Nepal is being exported to foreign countries in huge amounts, in the name of Darjeeling tea, as an Indian product. Secondly, cheap tea is being sold in the name of Darjeeling tea through smuggling. At the same time, the production cost of the authentic Darjeeling tea from West Bengal is more as compared to Nepal’s tea.
Every year, 2 crore KGs of tea is sold with the label of ‘Darjeeling tea’, but in reality, the tea plantations of Darjeeling grow only 1 crore KG of tea. The Free Trade Agreement is a hindrance in stopping the smuggling of Darjeeling tea. On the other hand, the production of tea is dwindling because of environmental changes. In two decades, its season has reduced by 1 month.
As per a study conducted by the Darjeeling Tea Research and Development Centre, the average temperature in Darjeeling’s Kurseong has increased by 0.5 degree Celsius, and the rainfall has reduced by 152 CMs, and the production has come down by 35% due to the weather.