Tea in east, coffee in west is best

Kathmandu, September 28:

High value cash crops, tea and coffee, have high export demand and are of immense environmental importance also. They also provide ample employment opportunities to the Nepali people.

Recent data from Nepal Tea and Coffee Development Board (NTCDB) shows the total area under tea plantation is estimated at 16400 hectares with a production volume of 152 million kgs. It is providing direct employment to 7,000 households. Climatic conditions are suitable for orthodox or standard tea in hilly ranges and CTC (Crush-Tear-Curl) tea in the Terai region.

An NTCDB source said around 2.5 workers are required for every hectare of the 16,400 hectares of land under tea cultivation. Around 1 lakh workers are engaged in tea cultivation while 35,000 persons work in coffee fields.

The private tea sector comprise small farmers, small processing factories and big tea estates with tea processing factories. There are 140 registered tea estates which contribute 85 per cent of the total production volume. Nepal has 40 tea processing factories in the private sector. They produce both orthodox and CTC tea. The eastern region is suitable for tea cultivation while the western region is favourable for coffee cultivation, said the NTCDB source.

Coffee farming has spreading to 39 districts of the middle hills region of Nepal as it has the right climate, topography, soil, relative humidity, temperature and rainfall.

Gulmi, Palpa, Argha-khanchi, Lalitpur, Tan-ahun, Kavre, Sindhupalchowk, Lamjung, Kaski, Gorkha, Syangja, Parbat, Baglung districts are growing coffee. This is helping farmers diversify and increase their income. Around 65 per cent of the coffee is exported mainly to Japan, the Netherlands and the USA while around 90 per cent of the tea is exported to Japan, the USA and Germany.

Export is increasing while import is decreasing. Currently coffee production is 270 MT dry parchment for the year 2007. It is expected production will be 1000 MT within the next 10 years, NTCDB said.