Green tea faces market shortage

Ilam, May 3 :

Over-production of green tea here has resulted in making it difficult for farmers to find proper markets for their produce. Farmers here produce around 100,000 kgs of green tea daily while the refining capacity of 10 tea factories situated at Ilam is only 40,000 kgs per day. Tea farmers said they are being compelled to sell tealeaves at a very low price to these factories due to the over production.

“Till five years ago, the tea factories used to give us Rs 35 for per kg of tealeaves, but now they hesitate even to give Rs 20 per kg,” tea farmer of Kanyam Kaji Man Kagate said. The factories have fixed rates for tealeaves from Rs 14 to Rs 21 per kg as per the quality of leaves. The green tea produced by the local factories is exported to international market as well through the German Tea Council and European Tea Committee. But the tea farmers don’t get paid in time. “We have to wait for over two months for our money,” Prem Bahadur Chamling of Fikkal, said.

Tej Nath Sharma of Small Tea Producers admitted that payment to farmers get delayed because of the delay in sale of the refined tea.

Farmers also sell tealeaves to tea factories in Darjeeling and Siliguri, as leaves produced here cannot be refined entirely by the local factories.

However, farmers complained that even those tea factories fail to pay farmers on time and sometimes, they don’t pay farmers at all.

Local farmers said they were lured to tea farming after the green tea produced here was sold at a fairly high price. Most farmers started tea farming taking advantage of the instalments scheme for loan payments, floated by the Agriculture Development Bank.

According to the bank, altogether 1,038 farmers had started tea farming after taking loans from the bank.

Officials at the bank said most farmers are facing trouble in repaying the loans. “Farmers are facing difficulties even for gaining back their investment. How will they be able to repay the loans?” former chairman of Purbeli Small Tea Farmers’ Association Dhan Bahadur Yangmali wondered.