Pesticide-free plan for tea

Project to be taken up in 3 Assam areas

Tea Research Association and London-based Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International have joined hands to develop a more ecological approach to tea production in order to reduce pesticide application.

“The project will eventually lead to development of a toolbox of tried and tested practices to facilitate transition towards ecological production. The project envisages the development of a package of practices in relation to pest management, leading to the adoption of non-pesticide control methods resulting in reduction of pesticide application in tea,” N. Muraleedharan, director of Tocklai Tea Research Institute, said.

The three-year programme will start in Assam in collaboration with the Tocklai institute and tea growers from three different areas – Upper Assam, south bank and north bank. “The bureau had approached us to conduct the project as we are the experts in tea research,” he said.

The bureau is an international not-for-profit organisation that improves people’s lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems of agriculture and the environment.

On an average, a garden spends Rs 8,000 per hectare on pest control measures and this amount can go up when pest infestation becomes huge.

“Three pest management systems will be demonstrated representing transition from conventional to non-pesticide management. Pest management practices selected from those identified in the literature and field studies and ready for validation from current research, will be implemented in these experiments. Experiments within these blocks will evaluate other innovations to be added to the arsenal of practices available. The major pests such as loopers, tea mosquito, thrips, green hoopers and termites will be the target depending on their prevalence in the three selected zones,” Muraleedharan said.

He said with the introduction of the Plant Protection Code, the tea industry is increasingly adopting non-chemical control measures because the choice of approved chemicals is limited. The industry has started using light traps, sticky traps, manual collection and bush sanitation as non-chemical methods.

“India is the second largest producer and exporter of tea in the world after China. This production and trade are powerful engines for economic growth, poverty alleviation and food security, but often, harnessing this power can be difficult. Tea crops suffer from a range of pests and diseases for which pesticides are the main solution but this results in increased production costs and potential risks to human health,” a statement from the bureau said.

“We are evaluating the environmental and economic feasibility of applying alternative methods to manage tea pests and diseases in India. The scientific teams are doing this by fostering better understanding of these ecological approaches to management, evaluating current practices and examining how these alternative approaches can be integrated into tea production to raise overall sustainability of tea production,” it said. This will ultimately look to tackle pests in a sustainable and alternative way, protecting tea growers, workers and the surrounding biodiversity, it added.

Retrieved from – http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150511/jsp/northeast/story_19394.jsp#.VVA4ho6qqko

Climate Change Is Slowly Killing Assam’s Tea Gardens

Usha Ghatowar smiles wryly when asked about the pay she earns picking leaves at a colonial-era tea garden in Assam.

“Do you think 3,000 rupees are enough when your monthly expenses can be double that?” she mumbles, as she puts on her “jaapi” hat of woven bamboo and palm leaves and takes a sip of tea from a steel mug.

As the women workers around Ghatowar nod in agreement the heavens open – it has started raining heavily in recent days after three largely dry months.

Unrest is brewing among Assam’s so-called Tea Tribes, whose forefathers were brought here by British planters from neighbouring Bihar and Odisha more than a century ago, as changing weather patterns upset the economics of the industry.

Scientists say climate change is to blame for uneven rainfall that is cutting yields and lifting costs for tea firms such as McLeod Russel (MCLE.NS), Tata Global Beverages (TAGL.NS) and Jay Shree Tea (JYST.NS).

While rainfall has declined and become concentrated, temperatures have risen – ideal conditions for pests like looper caterpillar and tea mosquito to infest the light green tea shoots just before they are ready to be plucked for processing.

Use of pesticides and fertilisers has nearly doubled as a result in Assam’s 800 big tea plantations, known as gardens, and the rising costs are making Indian tea less competitive.

As a result, firms in Assam are resisting calls from activists and student leaders to lift the daily wage of tea workers from about $2 agreed to recently, blaming weak prices and the doubling of crop expenses over the past 10 years.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, whose Congress party was routed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2014 general election, has sided with the workers ahead of state polls due early next year.

ASSAM TEA GARDEN

COURTING THE TEA VOTE

State elections have national significance in India – Modi needs to win most of the state assembly contests in the next four years if he is to take control of the upper house of the federal parliament and ease the passage of his reform agenda.

Tea tribe votes can swing results in about a quarter of the seats in Assam, the country’s main growing area, and the BJP has been making inroads.

In an interview to Reuters, Gogoi denied an opportunistic motive behind his call for the wage to be raised to about $3 a day.

“I had warned the tea planters about climate change but they did not take care for a long time,” Gogoi said. “They thought it would be easy money. I can’t allow injustice for tea labourers.”

Assam Tea Planters Association (ATPA) Chairman Raj Barooah said they would examine Gogoi’s demand but “there has to be a fair wage that can sustain the industry”.

The average temperature in Assam has risen by 1.4 degrees Celsius in the past century and rainfall is down by 200 mm (8 ins) a year, said R.M. Bhagat, chief scientist at the Tea Research Association in Assam’s tea hub of Jorhat.

“In the last 30 years we have seen that the magnitude of the effect of climate change is pretty high,” he said. “Rainfall has gone topsy-turvy. There is either too much or too little water, forcing planters to use sprinklers on what is a rain-fed crop.”

Several tea garden labourers and planters Reuters spoke with said tea factories in Assam now only run for about six months compared with round-the-year operations earlier.

Less rainfall resulted in an 8 percent fall in tea exports last year, according to the Indian Tea Association (ITA).

India is the world’s No.2 tea producer but is less export-oriented than other producers thanks to its big home market, and Sri Lanka has been extending its lead as the world’s third largest exporter behind China and Kenya.

 

LEARNING TO ADAPT

Labour accounts for 60 percent of the total costs for tea firms in Assam, whose prices last year were higher than those auctioned in Mombasa in Kenya, Chittagong in Bangladesh, Limbe in Malawi and Indonesian capital Jakarta.

Profit margins at Kolkata-based McLeod Russel, the world’s largest tea producer, are estimated to have fallen to their lowest in six years in the year ended March 31, according to Thomson Reuters data.

 

To cut labour costs, tea companies like Aideobarie Tea Estates, owned by ATPA’s Barooah, are exploring greater use of machines to harvest and spray nutrients or pesticides.

Barooah, whose company employs 48-year-old leaf plucker Ghatowar, her husband and now her eldest son, is also thinking of expanding into high-margin white tea made from tea buds.

Other tea gardens have moved to cultivating black pepper, turmeric, ginger, vegetables and fruit alongside tea, while Indian scientists are testing tea varieties that can adapt and survive in hotter and drier conditions.

But in the face of long-term climate change, that may not be enough.

“With rain so scarce, a day may come when Assam will not grow tea any more,” said tea scientist Subhash Chandra Barua. “Planting a crop is fine but economic cultivation may not be feasible”.

Retrieved from – http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2015/05/04/climate-change-assam_n_7210080.html

 

No place to go: The plight of Assam’s cornered elephants is getting worse

There’s a hot zone in Assam that has nothing to do with ULFA insurgents, Bodo militants or illegal migrants from Bangladesh. It’s about elephants.

Sonitpur district can be called Ground Zero of that human-elephant conflict.

Between 2001 and 2014 there have been 245 human deaths and 146 elephant fatalities in Sonitpur. In one year, 2001 alone, 32 elephants died in Sonitpur in retaliation for a spike in human casualties. And the brunt of those deaths have been felt in the tea gardens that dot the district. There’s no mystery why it’s happening says Anupam Sarmah of the World Wildlife Fund.

“Sonitpur had maximum forest loss. Almost 65 percent. That’s why it’s so severe. And the tea garden is the hot spot of human elephant conflict.”

For the wild elephant, the tea garden is just an extension of the forest.

Sandip Roy.

When a herd of wild elephants camps out in a tea garden, on land where tea bushes have been uprooted and Guatemala grass planted to rehabilitate the soil, they can ruin the land overnight says A. K. Bhargava, the managing director of Apeejay Tea.

But Bhargava, who self-deprecatingly calls himself a maali or gardener also admits “Their home is our home.”

It’s in that spirit that Apeejay Tea has joined hands with World Wildlife Fund to implement a three-year strategy to minimize human-elephant conflict in one of its epicentres. Apeejay owns four tea estates in the Sonitpur hot zone. The area however has many other problems- illegal encroachment in forests, militant activity and deforestation with political blessing.

The project hopes to come up with a matrix that can put a number to the loss from damage to property. It wants to set up movement corridors for safe passage for the elephants. And it hopes to find innovative new ways to keep elephants from coming into conflict with the humans in the area.

That can prove to be quite the battle of wits.

Elephants are remarkably intelligent creatures and can quickly figure out when they are being hoodwinked. Dipankar Ghose of the World Wildlife Fund says in the 80s and 90s the big buzzword was EPT or Elephant Proof Trenches that were dug to keep the elephants out. But soon elephants figured out how to get around trenches. A young elephant got inside the trench and helped nudge the herd across and when everyone had crossed over they dragged the young one out.

Farmers would place solar-powered red lights in their field which would blink in the dark mimicking predator eyes. But they have to be moved around otherwise the elephants soon figure out that it’s not a real predator.

Assam has a large population of kunkis or domestic elephants that can drive the wild ones back into the forest. But Ghose says now he sees elephant herds splitting into three herds and going into three villages. “There are not enoughkunki resources to combat that,” says Ghose.

Clearly there’s not going to be one magic solution that will solve human-elephant conflict. It’s going to require reinvention, imagination and investment. And if kunki anti-depredation squads work in Assam, they will not work in Bihar which does not have that many domestic elephants.

In India on average 400 people are killed every year in conflict with elephants.

The problem, says Sarmah of WWF, is unlike the tigers, 70 percent of whom are in protected areas, 80 percent of elephants in India are outside protected areas. And compared to 2,226 tigers in India, as per the last census, there are 27-30,000 elephants in the country. The conflict is ongoing and deepening but it does not capture popular imagination the way a man-eater might. “Tiger is like cricket and elephant is like hockey for us,” quips Sarmah.

And though it’s humans who are spreading into what used to be elephant territory, people do not see it that way. “If half my crop is damaged over night my tolerance is reduced even if I love Ganesha,” says Ghose. But he remembers when a raiding elephant died in a village, electrocuted by accident when an electric pole fell on it, the villagers who were up in arms about it, were deeply upset. They garlanded the dead animal and offered prayers, afraid of the ill omen of an elephant death in their backyard. In Monabarie tea estate when six people were killed in three days by an elephant, the Forest Department asked the villagers to write a petition to have the elephant declared rogue, but the villagers balked.

But it is expensive keeping elephants safe from people and vice versa. An electric fence can cost Rs 3-5 lakh per km and needs maintenance. There are lower energizer fences being explored that would cost Rs 80,000 per km. There are plans afoot to develop an early warning system that would alert farmers about approaching elephants. The Apeejay-WWF project is investing in bio fencing in place of the electric fence and setting up nurseries to grow thorny bamboo for that purpose. The goal is to plant 40,000 saplings in three years.

The tea-estate and NGO partnership becomes even more relevant in the current budget climate. Everyone agrees in principle that when a four-lane highway is built, care should be set aside to create corridors for animals whose habitat is being fragmented. But the question is who pays. Highways will says elephants are the forest department’s responsibility. But the forestry and environment ministry had its budget slashed 25% under the Modi government. That’s where a corporation and NGO partnership offers some hope even though an elephant does not belong to either the tea estate or the World Wildlife Fund but to all of us.

In three years there should be a formal elephant corridor through the Sessa Tea Estate. It won’t end the conflict or stop the human pressure on forest cover. Wild elephants will still need 400 kilos of food a day and as hills are deforested they will search for it in fields and granaries.

But we might just brew our Assam tea with a clearer conscience.

Retrieved from – http://www.firstpost.com/living/no-place-go-plight-assams-cornered-elephants-getting-worse-2196836.html

A Sip of Health

Pegged at approximately Rs 150 crore, the green tea market in India is growing strongly and steadily with demand coming in also from Tier II and Tier III cities and manufacturers increasingly focusing on launching new variants

20150315eh87Cheap, affordable and addictive – have been terms synonymous with tea from the time it ceased to be an elite drink of the royals to become an affordable drink of the common man. Green tea is one of the fastest growing segments of the global tea industry. It is prepared from the leaves of camellia sinensis that have undergone minimal oxidation during processes. The concept of green tea originated from China and later spread all over the world. Some of the popular Japanese green teas are sencha, gyokuro, kabusecha, matcha, tencha, genmaicha and hojicha.

The journey of tea in India has indeed been fascinating and interesting. With rising health awareness, Indians who are majorly black tea drinkers, are now showing interest in green tea variants. Green tea is becoming an acquired cultural habit that is being driven by urban India’s urge to stay fit. Though presently green tea penetration in India is less than five per cent, however its demand is not just limited to metros and Tier I cities, but has also come to include Tier II and Tier III cities which have started consuming this drink on a regular basis. As a result of this growing penetration, the green tea market in India which is presently pegged at approximately Rs 150 crore has been growing upwards 50 per cent year-on-year.

With urban Indian consumers buying green tea for its many health-promoting benefits, manufacturers are increasingly focusing on making premium variants available in all retail channels, especially in modern grocery retail outlets. For instance, consumers are spoilt for choice with tea products of companies such as Organic India, GAIA Herbs, Twinings, Typhoo, as well as big FMCG giants like Hindustan Unilever, Tata Global Beverages, who are either launching new variants or re-launching their green tea product range. Moreover, GAIA Herbs has also introduced green tea variants, namely cardamom, and honey and lime, to cater to an increasing number of health-conscious consumers in urban cities. International manufacturers are also expanding their presence in institutional channels, including hotels, to generate awareness of their premium brands.

Tetley, sold across 40 countries and a part of Tata Global Beverages, has six flavours in its green tea portfolio including ginger, mint, lemon, honey and lemon, citrus and spice, and aloe vera. The company enjoys a market share of 35-40 per cent. Though in the total tea revenues of Tata Global Beverages, green tea currently has a very small share vis-a-vis black tea, the company expects the green tea segment to contribute significantly in the coming years. And with the increasing emphasis on health and wellness, the potential for categories within tea is immense.

For Twinings, India is one of the top five growth markets. The company, that has about 35 per cent market share in the premium and super premium teabag category in the country, is looking at increasing its business in India five-fold in the next five years. India is the third largest tea sourcing country for Twinings after China and Kenya. The company is a big buyer of Darjeeling and Assam teas and is increasingly buying tea from the Nilgiris. Twinings is part of Associated British Foods. Their range of green teas in the India market include green tea, green tea and lemon, green tea and mint, Earl Grey green tea, jasmine green tea and lemon and honey tea.

Also to stay ahead of the race, Wagh Bakri Tea Group has been offering one of the largest green tea ranges in India consisting of green tea, organic tea bags and regular green tea. The company also has different flavours across its green tea range like green tea mint and green tea tulsi and is currently working on expanding its green tea range under its wellness category. Apart from major Indian cities, Wagh Bakri Tea Group is also aggressively marketing its green tea products in Tier II and Tier III cities. Though at present, the company’s green tea revenue compared to normal CTC is negligible but in one to two years the green tea category is expected to comprise of 10 per cent of the company’s overall sales.

Global trend

20150315eh88According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the overweight population is expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2015 and growing healthcare costs in the US alone is expected to cross US$ 117 billion; all this is creating major opportunities for the growth in sale of weight management products such as green tea. Rising consumer awareness about the benefit of green tea in curing various diseases further triggers the global market of green tea.

Asia Pacific contributes the largest market of green tea in the world. Apart from India, countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and China are growing markets of green tea in this region. Rising population and healthcare awareness is further expected to boost the green tea market in Asia Pacific. Europe is the fastest growing market for the green tea industry.

Major companies operating in the global green tea market are AMORE Pacific Corp, Arizona Beverage Company, Associated British Foods LLC, Cape Natural Tea Products, Celestial Seasonings, Finlays Beverages, Frontier Natural Products Co-Op, Hambleden Herbs, Hankook Tea, Honest Tea, ITO EN, Kirin Beverage Corp, Metropolitan Tea Company, Northern Tea Merchants, Numi Organic Tea, Oishi Group Plc, Oregon Chai, PG Tips, Pukka Herbs, Qi Teas, The Kent Tea & Trading Company, The Republic Of Tea, The Stash Tea Company, Uncle Lee’s Tea and Yogi Tea.

Retrieved from – http://www.financialexpress.com/article/fhw/cover-story-fhw/a-sip-of-health/50721/

A festive brew of culture – APPL to honour contributions and traditions of tea tribes

 A woman plucks leaves at a tea garden in Nagaon.

Amalgamated Plantations Pvt Limited, formerly Tata Tea, will host the first-everSirish Festival at the company’s picturesque Hathikuli tea estate near Kaziranga National Park on February 7 and 8 in a bid to promote the unique cultures and traditions of the tea tribes of Assam.

“Sirish Festival, the first ever integrated festival to honour the contribution of the tea tribe community to Assam, is a watershed moment for us. We expect that future editions of this annual festival will provide for not only national but also international recognition for this great community,” Ranjit Barthakur, chairman of APPL Foundation, said.

The foundation looks after the corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities of the APPL and is primarily engaged with local communities in Assam in the areas of education and skill development, environment, healthcare, culture and heritage.

Sirish, a Sanskrit word meaning soul, is the local name for the shady trees in tea gardens. The festival will showcase traditional dance forms, sports, art and literature of the tea community of Assam. Apart from the local population of Hathikuli and its adjoining areas, representatives for all the 25 tea estates of APPL, tea tribe community leaders and icons from various fields will attend the festival.

The high point of the festival would be the recognition and honouring of two icons from the community – one each from the fields of literature and culture. The recognition will be in the form of a citation and cheque, which will be presented by the chief minister Tarun Gogoi at the venue on February 8.

A DVD of a modern rendition of a traditional jhumur songcalled Railgadi Jhumur will also be released during the festival.

The APPL Foundation official said competitions would be held among the participants of the tea community in jhumur dance, pole climbing, archery and other sporting events, which are popular among the community.

“Participants from APPL gardens will take part in this year’s festival but plans are there for participation from other company gardens from the next year’s festival,” the official said.

He said the tea community has made an immense contribution to the lifeline industry of the state and such festivals were necessary to give them recognition.

Although Robert Bruce discovered tea in 1823, the commercial cultivation started only after 14 years, when the first tea garden was established at Chabua in 1837. The British imported thousands of workers, mainly from the Chhotanagpur region, covering the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and also from Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. These indentured tea garden workers later came to be known as the tea tribe community.

The important constituents are the Santhal, Tanti, Orang, Munda, Bhuiya, Bhumij, Paharia, Proja, Gaur, Kharia, Bheel, Boraik, Ghatowar, Teli, Goala, Rajak, Koya, Telenga and Kamar. The culture of different tribes got intermixed within themselves and also with the existing local Assamese culture, and an amalgamation of tea tribe culture and a new way of living evolved.

Retrieved from – http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150128/jsp/northeast/story_10306.jsp#.VMnDhdKUf-t

Assam’s agriculture sector benefitting from scientific practices

Science is being used to benefit the agriculture sector of Assam, and in other parts of North East India, given its sizeable population.

The production of large varieties of fruits and vegetables are now being exposed to advanced technologies for better yield.

Self-reliance is being promoted, as could be seen by the inauguration of the first of its kind agri hub nursery on horticulture farm in the AssamAgriculture University campus in Jorhat.

The nursery has been developed at a cost of Rs. 15 crores and financed under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikash Yojana.

The nursery will annually produce 48 lakh seedlings of various vegetables and seasonal flowers.

This new project will give a huge boost to production and ultimately help in generating more income for the farmers.

“Today, we inaugurated this new agri hub and such things are very important as this will help in the growth of agriculture sector. Making use of such scientific practices will benefit Assam, especially the villages and will also help in tackling unemployment situation. Gradually the youth will also be interested in taking up agriculture, production will go up and income will increase,” said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

While the climatic condition in the North East is conducive for agricultural activities and a large section in the region is involved in agriculture, the lack of scientific application in the field has prevented optimum production.

Recently, the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) in Trombay, gave its approval for the funding of 20 research projects to be taken up by scientists of Assam Agriculture University (AAU) mainly focusing on the development of agriculture sector in the North East.

These initiatives are expected to give a boost to advanced research in the field of agriculture and benefit farmers.

“It is definitely a very good thing because we are able to link up with BARC and it is just an opening. If we do well, I am sure many more projects will flow in. Our scientists will also get an exposure in BARC and other places. It will open up new avenues,” said K M Bujarbaruah, Vice Chancellor, Assam Agricultural University (AAU).

There is a huge scope for development in the agriculture sector in the northeast through implementation of advanced technologies, which besides bringing revenue will address the employment problem.

Retrieved from – http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/assam-s-agriculture-sector-benefitting-from-scientific-practices-114112200538_1.html

North East’s food processing sector part of PM’s ‘Make in India’ mission

The North East’s Food Processing sector was a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make In India’ mission, Union Food Processing Industries Minister Harsmirat Kaur Badal said

”Organic production has a very huge national and international market and only North East India has the potential to meet this demand through organised production”, Badal said at the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Exclusive Interactive Session.

”I am happy to inform you the North East Food Processing Industry is part of Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make In India’ mission”, she said.

Badal said this was her maiden visit to the North East and ”I am here to hear from the industry captains, entrepreneurs, growers of the food processing and allied sector and address their issues”.

”I was surprised to find very little utilization of funds when I took charge of the ministry but in five months I have ensured use of 50 per cent funds in a proper way”, the minister added.

She urged entrepreneurs to make maximum use of the National Mission on Food Processing.

Mega Food Parks have been conceptualized with all common infrastructure of a food processing industry under a hub like the North East Mega Food park in Tihu and ”our Government plans to set up food park in all the districts in next five years”, Badal said.

She also expressed concern on food waste in India and emphasized on the need for scientific and proper use of the infrastructure.

”Farmers are the future of Food Processing Industry and our ministry will ensure that food grown and produced reach consumers without wastage. This is what I call ‘Khet to Thali’ and we are committed to it”, she added.

Retrieved from – http://ibnlive.in.com/news/north-easts-food-processing-sector-part-of-pms-make-in-india-mission/512192-37-64.html

Spice factory to come up in Nagaon

Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL) — the second largest tea producer in the country — will commission the largest spice processing unit in the Northeast by the year-end.

Spread around 6 bighas with 30,000 square foot built-up area, the spice unit will come up in December at Naltoli in Nagaon district and will have production facilities forprocessing ginger, turmeric, black pepper, bay leaf, bhut jolokia, mustard and coriander. The spice unit, which will source products from the region, will be housed at the Integrated Infrastructure Development Centre of the Assam government.

“We are growing only pepper in our gardens. The rest will be aggregated from farmers across the region,” told a senior official of the APPL, who looks after its agri-business.

Altogether 3,46,000 pepper vines have been planted, of which 46,000 vines have borne fruit. Self-sufficiency in planting material has been achieved after independent nurseries were set up in all the 25 gardens of the company.

APPL aims to become the country’s largest producer of black pepper, the king of spices, by 2025. The company is investing Rs 20 crore in the spice unit, which will be set up in two phases. The spices will be sold under a brand name. Technical help and post-harvest management support will be provided by expert bodies.

“We will first look at selling to exporters and based upon the response, we will look at the consumer market,” the official said.

He said marketing channels have already been established with the organised sector comprising extractors, blenders and exporters. These sectors will form the core of the company’s marketing efforts and agri-business production, he said.

According to the Spices Board, the region can create exportable surplus of spices at competitive prices to ensure the country’s top spot in the international spice market.

The board is planning to provide financial assistance to spice growers’ co-operatives, farmers’ associations, NGOs representing spice growers and individual entrepreneurs in northeastern and hill states in the 12th Plan to establish primary processing facilities for organised marketing of the produce in the domestic and international markets with possible value addition.

APPL is a full-member of the Sustainable Spices Initiative, which brings together leading international companies and NGOs aiming to transform the mainstream spices sector, thereby securing future sourcing and boosting economic growth in producing countries.

Retrieved from – http://www.telegraphindia.com/1140901/jsp/northeast/story_18785028.jsp#.VAaYVMWSz-u

Aid plea for Hathikuli farm

Amalgamated Plantations Private Ltd (APPL), the second largest tea producer in the country, is moving the Centre to help it sustain its organic initiative at Hathikuli — the largest integrated organic farm in the country.

The tea company, which has 25 gardens in Assam and Bengal, is making this move to take advantage of the Rs 100 crore budget provision made this year to promote organic farming in the Northeast.

A senior company official said as a first move, it is looking to the government to allocate funds from the current year’s budget for organic production and will send a detailed proposal.

“This will encourage sustaining the organic movement in the Northeast,” he said.

The cumulative loss of going organic at Hathikuli has been Rs 16 crore, which is mainly due to loss of production, he added.

The process of organic transformation was undertaken in 2007 and it was achieved in 2011. “The acreage converted to organic farming is the largest contiguous conversion that has taken place anywhere in the country,” the official said.

The 687-hectare Hathikuli tea garden, situated on the periphery of Kaziranga National Park, is certified organic according to the Indian, US, European Union and Japanese organic agricultural standards.

Hathikuli is known for its CTC, orthodox, green teas and black pepper with a total annual production of 600 metric tonnes.

The teas are being exported to Germany, the US, the UK and West Asian countries.

Hathikuli Tea Garden

Hathikuli Tea Garden

The demand for organic food and beverages in the country is huge and estimated at $129.3 million and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15 per cent.

“We are in the process of educating ourselves and developing organic packages and practices, which will help create a knowledge base for farmers across the world and specifically Assam,” the official said.

The company’s net profit during 2013-14 reflected a growth of 56 per cent compared to 2012-13. The company held its annual general meeting last month with Ranjit Barthakur as its chairman.

The company has recorded an increase of nine per cent in its own crop harvest as compared to the Assam Valley increase of six per cent.

The company has focused on increasing its volume on operations through sustained development of its tea areas and purchase of bought leaf for conversion. It has also focused on orthodox manufacturing, which has added considerable value to the operations.

The focus on quality has also improved its earnings.

APPL has deployed a fairly large number of mechanical harvesters across 17 estates, as these machines will help in harvesting the crops in time. “This would also help in availability of mandays to do cultivation, as many estates are facing a shortage of workers,” the official said.

Retrieved from – http://www.telegraphindia.com/1140818/jsp/northeast/story_18729198.jsp#.U_GQbMWSz-s

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.

HO

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.

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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)