AGARTALA, Nov 15 - The century-old tea industry in Tripura, which was nearly destroyed by the three-decade-old insurgency, is back on its feet with the restoration of peace and harmony.
All 58 tea gardens in the State now operate at the optimum level, producing one crore kg of tea per year, Tea Association of India secretary PK Sarkar said.
Painting a bright future for the State�s tea industry, Sarkar said, �As many as 6,400 hectares of land are now under cultivation, while the total granted area for tea cultivation is 14,000 hectares.�
Sarkar thinks that if substantial capital investment is made in the industry, the State will scale up the list of 14 tea-producing States. Tripura at present holds the fifth position after Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Tea production in the State is also supplemented by small growers, who mostly grow tea in small holdings measuring one hectare or more and add to the production.
�There are also hundreds of small gardens, either privately run or run by some organisations. The Tripura Tea Development Corporation, a State Government organisation, runs 14 gardens. An estimated 20,000 people are employed in small gardens,� Sarkar said.
The tea gardens were the target of insurgent organisations like the National Liberation Front of Tripura and the All Tripura Tiger Force.
As the tea gardens are mostly located near the 856-mile Indo-Bangla border, it was an easy prey for the ultras, who killed or kidnapped tea garden officials and workers at will and returned to their bases in either Syllhat or Chittagong.
�Under these circumstances, it was not simply possible to run the gardens. The employees did not agree to work in the gardens,� Shantibrata Chakraborty, the vice president of the State unit of the Tea Association of India, said.
Tripura tea is now exported to Iran, Russia and America, Chakraborty said, adding that in August next year, green tea would be exported to Banga Sammelan at Houston in America.
�Besides green tea, organic tea and bio-tea have also good prospects in the foreign market,� Prabir De, spokesman of Luxmi Tea Company Ltd in North Tripura district, said.
The Manu Valley tea garden exported 58,000 kg of tea, named Jewel Tips, to Iran and also got orders from Russia as well a few years ago.
�We exported 58,000 kg of Jewel Tips tea to Iran a few years ago and we are sending almost the same amount every year,� DC Das, manager of Manu Valley Tea Estate, had earlier told reporters.
Manu Valley�s success inspired young entrepreneurs who are now planning to invest in tea along with rubber in a big way. The State Government recently requested the Central Government and the Indian Tea Council to revive the sick tea gardens in order to increase tea production in Tripura. At present five tea gardens are found sick in the State, officials of the Tripura Industrial Development Corporation (TIDC) said.
The TIDC, set up in 1980, for development of tea industry in the State, now manages these five sick tea gardens. Keeping in mind the sharp downfall in the demand for CTC tea worldwide, a prominent tea garden has focused on manufacturing orthodox tea. Orthodox tea, which is processed with utmost care and special technique, has tremendous demand in countries like Iran, Syria and UEA. The price of CTC tea has come down drastically in the auction markets after Kenya registered bumper CTC tea production this season. � PTI