A visit to the largest organic farm in Asia

Today we had the opportunity to visit one of the leading tea producers in India, Hathikuli Tea Plantation. Hathikuli is the biggest employer in the Kaziranga area and as we soon found out, the largest organic farm in all of Asia. The management of this massive tea operation taught us a lot about tea and what an operation of this size means to both the local community and the environment surrounding it. The plantation covers 470 hectares and employs more than 3,000 workers, the majority of whom are working as tea pickers, which they have done for generations since the plantation opened more than 100 years ago.


While sipping on delicious organic tea from plants just feet away, the manager, Chandan, told us that the board members made a conscious decision in 2009 to prioritize their impact on the local environment. The first year they converted half of the crop to organic and the operation has since been 100% organic. This fact was astonishing to hear, because the change meant going from over a million kilos (2.2 million lbs) of final product per year to around 430,000 (946,000 lbs). There is an increase in product value but not nearly enough to cover the loss. So essentially we have major businessmen making a decision to lower revenue in order to help the environment, by decreasing the amount of toxic pesticides that were contaminating the surrounding waters. Since Kaziranga is mostly swampland and rivers, all these pesticides had a detrimental effect on the ecosystem.


The assistant manager took us on a tour of the beautiful green plantations where we had the chance to meet some of the local workers and to satisfy our curiosity about this forward-thinking company. As always, the Indian hospitality was above and beyond. Workers in the fields work 6 days a week, 8 hours a day and make 95 rupees per day. 95 rupees a day is around 1.6 dollars U.S., not exactly a dream wage by any standard. However, the workers get an hour lunch, housing, 48 days paid vacation, 84 days paid maternity leave and all medical care paid for. Amazingly, the medical care extends to their entire family. The plantation even has a professional and fully-equipped hospital to tend to any of the workers’ needs. We had lunch with the doctor who was extremely well- educated, well-traveled and dedicated to her profession. She has the assistance of multiple nurses and is on-call 24/7. When asked what she deals with, she told us “I am a jack of all trades, and deal with anything from a headache, to childbirth, alcohol addiction, trauma surgery and anything in between”.

Hathikuli Tea Plantation is just one of the many examples of the conservation efforts in effect to protect Kaziranga. The people of Assam are extremely proud of this national treasure.

Next time you sip on a cup of organic tea, there is a good chance that it was grown right here in Kaziranga!

Reference - http://quest4understanding.com/a-visit-to-the-largest-organic-farm-in-asia/

PS – This blog was posted by Amy Rose Vankanan & Martin Söderhamnwho visited Hathikuli Tea Estate. They are associated with The WILD Foundation, US based not-for-profit organization, with a vision to protect and connect wilderness, wildlife, and people. (www.wild.org)

Exploited Community

Commercialization of the beverage called tea was begun as a cottage industry in China, when individual farmers would plant a few acres of the plant, use some of the produce for his family and sell the surplus to tea buyers, However, when the British built up an alternative tea industry in India, they did so as a capitalist enterprise. Huge tea plantations, in contrast to the small family holdings in China, were set up. The local people being unwilling to work in these newly opened tea gardens, thousands of workers were imported into Assam to man them, a horrific story of colonial exploitation. Since those pioneering days the exploitation of what has come to be known as the tea worker community continued. Though today living conditions are far better than the earlier times, yet given the reality that a tea worker is the soul of a tea garden, his or her quality of life is far from ideal. It is also true that during the post-independence period, when the industry passed into Indian hands, the capitalist ethos remained, as did worker exploitation. Unfortunately, progressive opinion in tea-growing areas like Assam did not raise its voice against this, which enabled the government political entity to use tea workers as its vote bank. A single union under political control was allowed to operate within tea gardens, thereby enabling the political-corporate nexus to negotiate contractual terms to their own benefit.


These are stark truths known to those familiar with the tea industry. Thus the irony that it required a “report” by researchers from Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute to imbue global focus on them would not be lost on the knowledgeable. The oddity of the report lies in the fact that it homes in solely on one tea group, Tata Tea’s Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited, whereas the same concerns are associated with the entire tea industry! This is perhaps because issues such as the use of child workers in factories in China, or hazardous conditions confronted by workers in Bangladesh, are today touching the collective conscience of consumers in the West. Tata Tea is not only a high profile group with international holdings, but also taken loan from the World Bank for its tea producing sector, thus perhaps it has been put under the microscope for not fulfilling commitments. The “report” has coerced Tata Tea to appoint an independent firm to review the working and living conditions of tea workers and has pledged to rectify shortcomings. But action by a small component of the tea corporate sector is hardly likely to enhance the quality of life of tea workers in general, particularly those of private gardens. It is incumbent on the part of the Centre as well as Governments of States where the tea industry exists to take note of the shortcomings within it as far as worker benefits are concerned.

Reference - http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/showpage.asp?id=apr1914,6,87,225,330,981

Green tea biz poised for strong growth

Kamal Baheti, chief financial officer,  McLeod Russel is confident of the company’s entry into the green tea business and says he sees a tremendous potential in the same. “Given its health connotations, we expect this growth to increase in urban areas.” says Baheti.

McLeod Russel recently made a Rs 5 crore worth acquisition of a green tea-processing factory in Vietnam , thereby entering the green-tea business.

“Green tea market in India has a market share of only 1 percent but it is growing by 25-30 percent every year. It is basically because the base is small. But this is a market, initially it is the urban market where it is growing but we believe with the health benefits attached to green tea, this is a segment which will grow more. There is hardly any production which happens in India. We have brought this factory in Vietnam, we will also see which are the markets other than India, Middle East, Pakistan etc growing in green tea. So, it is not only India but we are looking at international markets to really export the green tea.” says Baheti.


Before this Tata Global Beverages (Tata) with Tetley and Hindustan Unilever (HUL) with Lipton were dominating the green tea business. On expectations from the black tea segment, Baheti says a 5-10 percent price hike is likely as the tea season begins.
Retrieved from: http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/business/green-tea-biz-poised-for-strong-growth-mcleod-russel_1053016.html?utm_source=ref_article

How Tata Global is spicing up beverage sales

While tea remains its most profitable segment, accounting for 70 per cent of its revenue, the company has also put its innovation machine into top gear-eyeing emerging segments like herbal teas and fortified water in India and the UK and coffee pods.

The American market is becoming a testing ground for a new strategy that the beverage arm of the Tata Group is putting in place: identify new consumer trends and go after them even if it means adopting new distribution and marketing models.

Consider this: the United States is the largest consumer of coffee in the world at $30 billion (Rs 1.83 lakh crore). Tata Global Beverages, the Rs 7,270-crore beverage major, which marked its presence in the US with the 2006 acquisition of Eight O’Clock Coffee, the third-largest coffee brand in that country in terms of volume, is shifting its attention to the in-home segment, making beans and pods for the coffee-making machines at home which offer a growing space in the American coffee market.

Tata Global Beverages, which derives about 25 per cent of its overall revenues from coffee and about 18 per cent from Eight O’Clock alone, has tied up with coffee-machine makers such as Green Mountain Roasters, owners of Keurig, in the US. The latter is the largest single-serve machine operator in the nearly $12-billion (or Rs 73,000 crore) in-home coffee market in the US. It has a 72 per cent share of the market. The tie up with Keurig allows the Indian beverage company to push products such as packaged Eight O’Clock branded coffee pods for Keurig machines (popularly called K-Cups). It has thus ensured that it is not altogether out of the consumption basket in this segment.

The result? In a span of a year-and-a-half since the launch of K-Cups, Tata Global Beverages has managed to garner a share of about 7 per cent of the single-serve market, according to analysts tracking the company.

This spurt has happened even as the regular Eight O’Clock packaged coffee (available in whole bean as well as grounded formats) was refurbished recently in the US to help it stand out in a cluttered beverage environment. Ajoy Mishra, executive director & deputy CEO, Tata Global Beverages – who will take over from incumbent Harish Bhat as managing director & CEO on April 1 – said while announcing the company’s third-quarter results this January that he saw the new product formats (K-Cups) helping the brand increase its share in a sluggish market.

The overall coffee market in the US is growing at a pace of just 5.6 per cent per annum. But analysts say it is the single-serve segment, growing faster than the overall coffee market, that is expected to fuel Eight O’Clock’s growth. Says Abneesh Roy, associate director, research, institutional equities, Edelweiss: “Markets such as the US are highly modern trade-led, where a number of beverage brands are competing for a share of the consumer’s wallet. Tie-ups with coffee makers such as Green Mountain, therefore, is the way forward since it gives a packaged brand direct entry into the consumer’s home.”

While single-serve is clearly the way forward for Tata Global Beverages in the US, in India the company is counting on its joint venture with Starbucks to help it expand its coffee presence. Tata Starbucks, the joint venture between the Indian and American companies, has already led to 34 stores in four cities, including in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi and Bangalore, over the past 18 months and is expected to keep its pace of launches as it looks to grow its business aggressively. Analysts say that the joint venture is expected to add at least 20 new stores in the next six months, crossing the 50-store mark in the process. This, say analysts, will possibly constitute the fastest expansion of retail outlets by a brand in recent years. Misra says that operations of the joint venture are going according to plan, but does not go into details. Last year, Tata Starbucks had increased its authorised share capital by Rs 150 crore in a fund-raising drive aimed at helping it expand operations.

Tata Global Beverages is looking to take revenues from coffee to 35 per cent in the next five years and infusion of capital is expected to aid this process.

Specialty teas and water

There are two other emerging areas on Tata Global Beverages’s radar. Around 70 per cent of Tata Global Beverages’s revenues comes from tea. But it is specialty teas, which make up 15 per cent of this 70 per cent pie, that the company has sets its eye on. Specialty teas include green and herbal teas. Tata Global Beverages, according to people who know of the company’s plans, is looking at increasing its contribution from specialty teas to 30 per cent over the next few years. This comes as preference for green tea grows in India and across the world. According to experts, green tea constitutes 5 per cent (or Rs 550 crore) of the overall 800 million-kg tea market in India that is worth Rs 11,000 crore. It is estimated that green tea will touch 20 per cent in the next few years.

Tata Global Beverages already has a portfolio of six variants under the Tetley brand name within its green tea portfolio in India, commanding a market share of 27 per cent. The company proposes to take this number up in the coming days by introducing new flavours to spice up its offering. Similarly, in markets such as the UK and Canada, the company has been aggressively pushing its green tea range. It has market leadership in green teas in Canada and is number two after Twinings in the same category in the UK.

In water, Tata Global Beverages wants to take its Himalayan packaged water to West Asia and parts of South-east Asia after launching it in Singapore at Starbucks outlets there. This is expected to gain momentum in the next financial year, when Tata Global Beverages’s joint venture with PepsiCo, called NourishCo, will also launch Tata Water Plus in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

Currently, Tata Water Plus, a fortified water brand from NourishCo, and Tata Gluco Plus, an energy drink from the company, are available in the southern markets of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Tata Global Beverages is also expected to take the two products to more markets in the south. Water at the moment contributes 2 per cent to revenues, which the company plans to take to 10 per cent in five years.

Tata Global Beverages is expected to support growth in these categories with acquisitions. Misra had reiterated in January that the company had no plans to abandon its inorganic growth strategy despite selling its entire stake in Rising Beverages, a US beverage company, during the December 2013 quarter. Tata Global Beverages, Misra had said, was looking at joint ventures and alliances besides acquisitions in specialty teas, water and coffee.


Over the last decade, Tata Global Beverages has transitioned from being a local maker of packaged tea to the second-largest maker of tea in the world. The ball was set rolling in 2000, when the company, then called Tata Tea, acquired UK-based tea maker Tetley in a Rs 1,870-crore deal. The buy-out heralded the start of an aggressive expansive strategy.

Between 2000 and 2010, the company spent over Rs 5,000 crore on acquisitions in the US, Russia, East Europe and South Africa, snapping up players such as Good Earth, Jemca, Joekels Tea, Vitax, Grand and Eight O’Clock Coffee, among a host of others. Of these, Tata Tea, which became Tata Global Beverages in 2010, cashed out of two transactions-its 30-per cent stake in US-based Energy Brands, the maker of Glaceau vitamin water and its 43.1-per cent stake in Rising Beverages, the maker of the Activate brand of functional water, a brand popular in the US.

Despite the exits, notably in the water business, Tata Global Beverages has not given up on its ambition of expanding its presence in the segment. Tea, coffee and water are the three pillars of its business, says the company. It announced last month that it had received the mandatory approval of the local stock exchanges to merge Mount Everest with itself, a process it had set rolling in November 2013. In tea, its focus will be on green and herbal since the demand for black tea is waning in mature markets with people veering towards healthier options.

Retrieved from - http://www.business-standard.com/article/management/how-tata-global-is-spicing-up-beverage-sales-114031201294_1.html

Green tea demand growing by 17% in domestic market

Demand for green tea is growing at a rate of 17 per cent per annum against only 3 per cent for black tea in the domestic market, a Tea Board official said.

Assam produced 2 million kg of green tea of the estimated production of 11 million kg in the country during 2013, Tea Board Executive Director (Incharge) Dipankar Mukherjee said while inaugurating a workshop on Green Tea in Golaghat.

India is the largest producer and consumer of black tea in the world while China is the largest producer and consumer of green tea in the world.

“The demand for green tea is rapidly increasing in India whereas in China, the demand for black tea is on the rise,” he said emphasizing the need for scientific and sustained production of green tea.

 Retrieved from - http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/markets/commodities/green-tea-demand-growing-by-17-in-domestic-market/article5713938.ece

Gujarat tops in tea consumption

Gujarat, which tops in milk production in India, also consumes the maximum tea in the country.

While the national per capita tea consumption in the country is 1.4 kg annually, it is 1.6 kg in Gujarat.

To further boost tea consumption, the Tea Board of India, local brands and packers will distribute 8 lakh paper cups, carrying their logos, by March 2014, Piyush Desai, President of Western India Tea Dealers’ Association (WITDA) and Managing Director, Wagh Bakri Group, said here during the WITDA conference.

By the end of 2014, Maharashtra and Rajasthan will also be made part of this campaign, he said.

Tea Board of India Chairman MGVK Bhanu urged the consumers to partake tea without mixing it with sugar or milk for better health.

R P Singh, Parliamentary Secretary to the Assam Government’s Department of Commerce and Industry, who represents the top tea producing Tinsukhia area, said his government is setting up a tea park in a 200 acre area near Guwahati for showcasing different varieties for promoting tea cultivation.

Bhanu said tea industry provides employment to the maximum number of people, 12 lakh, mainly women. The Tea Board has commenced a Rs 30 crore drive to promote tea in rural areas of the country.

Retrieved from - http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/states/gujarat-tops-in-tea-consumption/article5470146.ece

Global black tea output up 9.18%

Global black tea production has increased by 9.18 per cent so far this calendar over last year, according to an analysis of the latest data available with Tea Board and traders’ bodies.

“According to our compilation, global black tea production rose to 1,860.32 million kg (mkg) from 1,703.85 mkg,” Rajesh Gupta, publisher of ‘Global Tea Digest 2013’ told Business Line.

This increase of 156.47 mkg marks a growth of 9.18 per cent.

All countries except Uganda have posted an increase in production over last year. Even Uganda has posted only a marginal shortfall of 0.73 mkg till October to produce 45 mkg.

India tops the black tea table with a massive output of 1,028.68 mkg till October (up 76.23 mkg over last year) despite South India posting a fall of 0.16 mkg to dip to 195.77 mkg as North India’s production has risen by a whopping 76.39 mkg to produce 823.91 mkg.

The increase of 76.23 mkg posted by India was the highest gain achieved by any country.

Kenya posted the second highest increase of 66.33 mkg to produce 354.52 mkg.

Sri Lanka came third producing 278.25 mkg (up 8.30 mkg). Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malawi and Tanzania follow with higher output.

Retrieved from - http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/agri-biz/global-black-tea-output-up-918/article5452219.ece

Tetley using ‘virtual assistant’ to promote tea sales

Queue management firm Tensator announced it has helped long-standing British tea brand Tetley cause a stir in Kuwait’s supermarkets, by using Virtual Assistants to promote tea.

Tensator’s Virtual Assistant Ultra model has been installed at 10 Co-op stores across the country, and brings the mechanism of Tetley’s drawstring teabags to life with a live demonstration.

Currently in stores in Jahra, Defence, Madina Saad, Sulaibhikhat, Adan, Qusoor, Rumaithiya, Rikka, Fahaheel, and Salmiya, the 50x50cm unit is designed for retail shop floor promotions, and to create a buzz around a particular product.

According to the company, The Virtual Assistant Ultra is a next-generation digital signage solution that uses cutting-edge technology to project an image and create the illusion of a real person. This gives it the unique ability to bring messages to life and attract more sales. Its integrated Bose sound system and ability to showcase Tetley’s range of drawstring teabags in detail means that the benefits of the product are made much clearer to crowds of shoppers than would otherwise be possible without devoting extra staff.

Tetley’s parent company, Indian tea giant Tata Global Beverages, said it was attracted to the Tensator Virtual Assistant Ultra because of its ability to interact and create a wow factor in store.

“This is a first for supermarkets in Kuwait and the wider Middle East, and the Virtual Assistant experience is very life-like and unique,” said Danny Finney, Commercial Director for Tata Global Beverages in the Middle East. “As a brand, Tetley has a long history of innovation so we think it’s a perfect fit to use state of the art technology to demonstrate our revolutionary Drawstring teabag.

Retrieved from - http://www.retailcustomerexperience.com/article_print/224551/Tetley-using-virtual-assistant-to-promote-tea-sales

Hathikuli Tea Shoppe, a greet for tea connoisseurs in Guwahati

Though Assam has almost 200 years of tea history, the concept of Tea Shoppe, or a Tea Boutique, which gives the connoisseurs of the health drink, a wide-range of high-quality products, is yet to pick up in the region.

The Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited, a Tata enterprise, recently opened its first tea boutique — Hathikuli Tea Shoppe — on its GS Road office premises in Guwahati, has given the elites the opportunity to relish good quality organic tea.

Hathikuli Tea Shoppe

The tea shoppe, which is the first of its kind in the capital city of Assam, is sure to bring about a change in the tea drinking habit of the people. So far, common people had the propensity to buy any tea brand off-the shelves in departmental stores.

Now, the Hathikuli initiative will encourage a lot of others to open up similar ventures in Guwahati, or other smaller cities of the region. Every tea connoisseur drinks tea in their own taste. And slowly, they get glued to a particular brand.

So far, Hathikuli garden had its own retail counter in the premises of the garden, owned by the Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited, the second largest tea producer in the country. It is one of the pioneers of organic tea in India.

The Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited, which is the new avatar of Tata Tea, owns two-dozen tea gardens in Assam and North Bengal. The group has one fully organic garden — the Hathikuli tea estate, near the Kaziranga National Park in Upper Assam’s Golaghat district.

Occupying a total area of 687 hectares, the estate produces stylish and well rolled leaf. Hathikuli’s conversion to organic began in 2007 and was finally completed in March 2011. OneCert Asia is the certifying body for Hathikuli T.E. It is accredited by APEDA (Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) under NPOP (National Programme for Organic Production).

The organic tea estate is committed to the objectives of organic farming as defined by the International Federation of Agricultural Movements (IFOAM). The workers at the garden have been made to understand that its main objective is to produce food and beverages of high nutritional value and quality and encourage and enhance biological cycles involving micro-organisms, soil flora and fauna, plants and animals. The garden has the distinction and capability of producing black CTC, Orthodox and Green tea.

And because of its strong organic credential, the group is now a key player in the Rs 640-crore organic tea market in the country. It has been reported that the organic tea market is growing at the rate of 14 to 15 percent in India. In addition to the domestic market, India is also a major exporter of organic tea to Europe and North America.

And, opening of the organic tea shoppe in Guwahati will enlighten people about the positive side of the macrobiotic produce; it is natural that more and more people would change their choice.

The management of Hathikuli Tea Shoppe should now engage experts at the outlet to enlighten the customers on benefits of organic tea drinking.

Reference - http://www.indiatea.co.in/hathikuli-tea-shoppe-a-greet-for-tea-connoisseurs-in-guwahati/

Tea garden eyes fish boom

Amalgamated Plantations Private Ltd (APPL), the second largest tea producer in the country, is aiming to produce 200 tonnes of fish by next year in its gardens in Assam.

The company, which started fisheries in its gardens in 2007, now produces 130 tonnes of fish which is 35 per cent higher than the previous year. The fishponds are spread over 149 hectares in 15 gardens six of which have their own hatcheries.

The average size of a fish pond is 1.5 acres with the largest one spread over six acres. Rohu and katla fish from the carp family are produced in the gardens. Fish are sold at farm gate, local markets and at its kiosks at Hathikuli and Powai gardens in the state.

“Our endeavour is to increase production to over 200 tonnes in the next two years in the ponds and provide quality fish seed to the fish farming community for their yield and revenue maximisation,” Prabir Banerjea, chief operating officer of APPL’s agri business division, told this correspondent.

The fisheries project of the company is the largest in the private sector in the Northeast.

Previously known as Tata Tea, Amalgamated Plantations has its operations spread across 24 tea estates in Assam and north Bengal covering 24,000 hectares and employing approximately 30,000 workers.

APPL production during 2012-13 was 33.54 million kg of tea. The company has diversified into spices, dairies and fisheries. Six multi-locational hatcheries have been operationalised for producing quality fish seed.

“As a testimony to our quality, fish farmers from Nagaon, Sonitpur, Golaghat and Dibrugarh districts have already purchased over 10 lakh spawns and fries in the last few months,” an official said.

“The fisheries project generates significant employment and creates wealth for the local population and provides fresher and therefore more nutritious fish,” he said.

Thorough studies and training were undertaken to implement the fisheries project which proved successful and showed promise. Fish ponds were excavated in areas that have been lying fallow and no ground water is drawn for the fisheries project to ensure that there is no depletion of water table.

The official said based on the success of its hatchery operations, the Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture in Bhubaneswar has appointed APPL the authorised multiplier unit for a new variety of rohu to cater to fingerling requirements of the Northeast.

“We are also working in close partnership with local fishing communities in some districts for knowledge transfer of best cultivation and management practices we have adopted,” he said.

In 2012-13, the fisheries project has generated almost one lakh mandays employment in the gardens.

Retrieved from - http://www.telegraphindia.com/1130815/jsp/northeast/story_17232093.jsp#.Ug2oy9Iqdsl