APPL targeting organic tea market

Eyeing European markets for export and tying up with large format retail stores in India, Amalgamated Plantations Pvt Ltd (APPL), a Tata Enterprise, is trying to capture large part of the Rs 640-crore organic tea market in India.

“The organic tea business is growing by 15 per cent every year. For us, that is the only way to go. In the export market, we are targeting European countries like Germany and Japan besides US and UK,” Deepak Atal, managing director of the second largest tea producer in India, told reporters here today.

In the Indian market, they are tying up with large retail chains like Walmart, Nilgiri and Spencer”s.

“Consumers are now more health conscious than ever before and when we market it rightly with these retail chains, the scope in organic tea market is tremendous,” he said.

In 2011 their Hathikuli Tea Estate spread across 687 hectares in Assam”s Golaghat district near Kaziranga National Park was certified as organic. It was recently awarded at the Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Awards in Mumbai for protecting biodiversity.

“Initially the production fell from 8 lakh kg to 3.5 lakh kg because we were not using fertilizers to control pests. But now the production has started increasing gradually and in the next 2-3 years we will return to the 8 lakh figure,” Atal said.

For marketing in the European market, the tea estate is also in the process of being certified as a Rain-forest Alliance (RA) for its eco-friendly practices.

From the last one year, their two other tea estates in Assam – Diffloo and Teok – have been using only bio- fertilizers.

“But there has been no drop in yield. So from next year we will extend bio-fertilizers to all estates in a phased manner. It will reduce the chemical load on soil and increase its productivity and health in the long term,” the official said.

At present, APPL has 21 tea gardens in Assam and 4 in West Bengal.

Along with tea, they have been growing spices like pepper, ginger, turmeric, etc as multi-crop plantation.

“We are now installing a food processing unit near Guwahati for our agri-business. Some of these products will be sold as our brands while others will be sold to the large retail chains,” Atal said.

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‘Organic’ tea estate helps save wildlife

When Deepak Atal, managing director of Amalgamated Plantations Pvt Ltd (APPL), thought of converting Hathikuli tea estate in Assam to an organic one in 2007, his idea was to improve the ecology of Kaziranga National Park, bordering the tea garden.

Five years down the line, the organic tea garden contributes to the greater biodiversity of the world heritage wildlife sanctuary by banning pesticides. At the same time, it is reviving its growth in production slowly.

The tea estates maintained by APPL (largely in Assam and four gardens in West Bengal) are the only surviving plantations links of the Tata Group.

According to Atal, tea production in Hathikuli went down from 8 lakh kg in 2007-08 to 3.5 lakh kg in 2009-10. But, it has signs of improvement of late.

“The Hathikuli estate produced 4.5 lakh kg tea last fiscal and it is expected to produce 6 lakh kg tea by FY14,” he said.

Spread over 467 hectares of tea growing area, the estate has in-house bio production and vermi-composting units for organic formulations for soil nutrition, foliage growth and integrated pest management.

The vermi-compost production unit at the estate has an annual capacity of 1100 million tonnes a year, which is touted to be one of the largest such units in the North Eastern region.

Atal pointed out that the company is planning to market its organic tea and organic pepper produced at the Hathikuli estate through modern-format retail stores. “We have already tied up with Walmart and Nilgiris for this,” he said.

The project has been given away the “Winds Under the Wings Award” by Sanctuary Asia on November 30 to recognize APPL’s efforts to save wildlife.

Reference – http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/features/organic-tea-estate-helps-save-wildlife/article4171459.ece