AGARTALA, April 9 - The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the tea industry in Tripura into a crisis that has not been faced by local tea planters in decades.
The �golden harvest� has been swept away by the novel coronavirus as tea planters have failed to collect tea leaves last month as well as in the current month due to the lockdown restrictions.
Nobody knows when normalcy will return to the tea estates. �The restrictions has taken its toll as planters have not been able to harvest the crop at the peak season,� said Santibrata Chakraborty, a tea planter. Tea planters get the best price for the crop collected in February, March and April, but this time around, almost all tea garden owners have incurred losses due to the COVID-19 threat, he pointed out.
Citing an example, Chakraborty said only 225 kg of tea leaves were collected from the Rangrung Tea Estate on Thursday, while the average collection is around 2,000 kg on any normal day in April. �Now, you can imagine what will happen to us. I have never seen such a crisis before. It is like a disaster,� he added.
The Tripura Industries and Commerce Department lately issued a notification allowing tea garden owners to resume work by maintaining social distancing and hygiene in and around their tea estates.
However, tea planters are not happy with the guidelines laid down by the department, stating that normal production will not be possible if these are implemented.
�We have requested the Government to bring some changes to save the tea industry which feeds around 20,000 people. Tea planters understand the problem of COVID-19, but we have suffered the most due to the prevailing situation,� Chakraborty said.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Tripura Tea Development Corporation (TTDC), Santosh Saha, has also expressed concerned over the crisis being faced by the tea planters due to the lockdown restrictions. �The lockdown has dented the potential of the tea industry in the State as normal work has been affected in all the tea estates,� he said.
Saha said considering the woes of the tea industry, the Government has issued the notification allowing tea planters to resume work by engaging 50 workers in a particular tea garden. �In some tea estates, work has got under way, but this is not sustainable. We are in talks with the Government on finding ways to help the tea planters,� he said.
The state which has 52 tea estates, produces 5 lakh kg tea, mostly orthodox, on an average annually.