GUWAHATI, April 18 - Around 500 organic small tea growers are silently working to bring about a revolution in the State's tea sector for the past about 11 years. About three years back, they formed the Organic Small Tea Growers� Association, Assam (OSTGAA) with the aim at bringing about a far-reaching change in the small tea growers sector and around 125 of them are now engaged in manufacturing organic tea in their own factories.
Significantly, they exported around 6,000 kilograms (kg) of green tea and around 2,000 kgs of black orthodox tea to Canada in 2016. Though Canada dominated the other countries in matters of buying teas from these producers, the United States (1,000 to 1,500 kg of green and black teas), the United Kingdom (around 2,000 kg, mostly black), Australia (around 1,500 kg, mostly black) and New Zealand (around 500 kg of black tea) are also in their importing countries list.
Assam, by consuming around 30 per cent of the teas manufactured by these entrepreneurs, stands as the most promising inland market for these tea manufacturers. The tea consumed by the State�s consumers is mostly green tea. After Assam, West Bengal is the second largest buyer of the tea manufactured by these entrepreneurs, who also sell their teas to the buyers of Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Kerala.
Speaking to this newspaper, OSTGAA general secretary Bhabendra Mohan Borgohain said around 20,000 kg of organic tea were produced by the members of the Association last year and it is expected that this year they would be able to manufacture between 50,000 kg and 60,000 kg of organic tea. The teas manufactured by these entrepreneurs include green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea and dheki-made tea. Black tea manufactured by the members of the Association included only orthodox tea.
Nevertheless, the green tea and black orthodox teas produced by these tea growers dominated the other varieties, Borgohain said.
On how they started tea manufacturing, Borgohain said Ms Peggy Carswell, a member of the Canadian NGO Fertile Ground, who is also a member of the Rotary International and is coming to Assam every year since 2004, first taught them the techniques of producing organic tea and marketing their produces.
Now, the Association members are receiving technical guidance from Dr Pradip Baruah, Chief Advisory Officer, Tocklai Tea Research Institute. The Association is receiving the legal support from the Tea Board of India since December 2014. The Assam Agricultural University is also supporting these entrepreneurs.
Most of the factories (around 50) set up by the members of the Association are located in Dibrugarh district, followed by Biswanath (around 20), Sivasagar (around 15), Tinsukia (around 12), Golaghat and Sonitpur (each having around 10), Udalguri (around six), Jorhat, Lakhimpur and Bongaigaon (each having five), Dhubri (four) and Kokrajhar (three), Borgohain said.
Each of these factories is employing between three to five persons, who are working between the first half of March and December-end. In each of the 500 small tea gardens owned by these entrepreneurs, five to 15 people work as permanent workers and they work round the year. These gardens now sell only 20 to 30 per cent of their leaves depending on their organic tea market, Borgohain said.