Agartala, Aug 7 (IANS): Tea production in the organised sector in declining in India due to ageing bushes and little investment and the country may have lost 50 million kg of tea in the past 10 years.
At the same time it is rising in small holdings which account for nearly 28 percent of the total tea cultivation area and 26 percent of the country's total production.
"India lost production of 50 million kg of tea during the past 10 years in the organised sectors. Old bushes and scarce investment are the key reasons for reduction in production in the organised big holdings," Tea Board of India executive director Rakesh Saini told IANS.
According to him, 1,686 big gardens (organised sector) produce 723 million kg (from 416,027 hectares) of tea yearly, accounting for more than 74 percent of the country's total production.
Saini said: "The number of small tea growers in the country would be around 250,000, producing 257 million kg of tea (from 162,431 hectares) annually, accounting for more than 26 percent of the country's total tea production."
The concentration of small tea growers is largest in Assam, followed by West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Bihar.
Saini said that domestic consumption of the beverage is rising although the per capita consumption in India is less than in other countries.
He was here for the setting up of a tea board office in Agartala. Tripura Industries and Commerce Minister Jitendra Choudhury Monday laid the foundation stone of the office, to be built at a cost of Rs.2.07 crore.
Choudhury said the Tripura government has urged union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma not to shift the tea board office for small tea growers from Guwahati to Dibrugarh in eastern Assam.
"If the tea board office for small tea growers move from Guwahati to Dibrugarh it would make inconvenience for them to take the benefit of the tea board. Hence it would affect production and cultivation of tea in other northeastern states," he added.
The Minister also said that some tea garden owners are trying to use the stipulated land for rubber cultivation to earn more easy profit. "The Tripura government would not allow this. Tea garden land cannot be used for other purposes according to the act concerned."
Tripura Industrial Development Corporation chairman Pabitra Kar said tea cultivation through small tea gardens started in the state in 1994. "Now there are over 7,000 small tea gardens."
Tea plantations in Tripura dates back to 1895. In fact, Tripura is categorised as a traditional tea-growing state, with about 58 organised tea estates producing about nine million kg of tea every year. This makes Tripura the fifth largest among the 14 tea producing states after Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Kar, a former minister, said that with over 10,000 hectares under cultivation, Tripura accounts for six percent of total tea area in India and four percent of total production.