Green tea faces market crisis

Bimal Pradhan

Ilam, April 8:

After farmers were unable to get an appropriate price for green tea from local tea traders, they have started to export it to India.

Ilam Tea Producers of Panchakanya and Small Farmer Tea Producers (SFTP) of Doctorkhola of Fikkal have recently decided on the price of green tea. According to industry sources, the price of green tea has been decided at Rs 20 and 17 per kilogram, depending on the quality of the tea leaves.

Two years ago, the price of per kilogram of green tea was Rs 35. The steep fall in the price of tea this year has hit local farmers hard. Farmer Nara Bahadur Pradhan of Samalbung said that this is the reason that farmers have been compelled to sell their products to India. He added that he has been exporting two quintals of green tea daily to Darjeeling.

Dhan Bahadur Yangmali, chairman of Small Tea Farmers Association, said that farmers have to sell their product to the neighbouring country as they have to cover their cultivation expenses. He said that if farmers sell tea for Rs 20 per kilogram, they have to bear huge losses.

According to Yangmali, more than 20 tea collection centres have been established at Kanyam, Fikkal, Shree Antu and other places and businessmen have started to purchase tealeaves from these collection centres.

50 per cent of the total tea produced in the district is being exported to Darjeeling. Though there are five tea factories locally, around 2.5 million kilograms of tealeaves had been exported to India last year. Why did the price of tea leaves spiralled down?

Industry mangers reply, "This is done by the government. In fact we have been surprised by the high price of tealeaves two years ago." They claimed that the unnecessary price hike was due to the unhealthy competition between the newly-established tea producing companies. Dhan Kumar Timilsina, manager of Mai Ilam Guraanse Tea Producers, said, "In the current context, the situation does not permit us to increase the price of tea leaves."

Giving reasons behind the ability of Indian businessmen to pay high prices, Dilip Rai of Orthodox Tea Producers said, "Indian tea market depends on Darjeeling tea. The tea market in Darjeeling is spread far and wide but they lack quality raw material. That is why they have to pay high prices while importing green tea leaves from Ilam."