Big push for organic tea in India – Tea Board of India provides 25% more subsidy than normal

The Tea Board of India is giving a big push to organic tea production in the country for the first time by providing 25 per cent more subsidy than the normal subsidy of 30 per cent.

This has for the first time been incorporated in the Twelfth Plan by the board to give a boost to organic tea, which has been gaining momentum in the country (see chart).

Besides, it has a premium market commanding high prices abroad. “We will try to mitigate the problems being faced by gardens wanting to go organic to some extent,” S. Soundarajan, director of tea development, Tea Board of India, told The Telegraph.

The total money kept for orthodox tea production subsidy is Rs 150 crore. A total of 50 per cent of the cost of certification will be paid as subsidy.

The term organic describes both how an agricultural product is grown and processed. An organic product is free of chemicals, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic modifications and field use of sewage sludge as fertiliser.

It takes a minimum of three years for a garden to become organic and it will have to be certified as organic by an accredited certifying agency. Organic tea constituted two per cent of the total organic products exported in India in 2012-13.

The problems for gardens that wish to go organic are two-fold – yield drop and increase in cost of production. Sources say the average yield drop is 44 per cent over the conventional cultivation and over 65 per cent increase in the cost of production.

Officials say one of the primary reasons for a shift to the organic sector is the premium market that commands high prices. Besides this, organic tea cultivation could be a solution to restore/increase the continuous depleting crop productivity under the present chemical farming practice, to restore soil/ecosystem, depleted under years of synthetic fertilisers and agro-chemical application and to redress the problem of climate change and to generate employment and reduce health hazards for the workers.

“It is a progressive move by the board to encourage gardens to go organic. But to get benefits for us who already have an organic tea garden – Hathikuli in Assam will have to see and talk to the board,” managing director of Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited, Jagjeet Singh Kandal, told The Telegraph. He said the company is proud to be pioneering in the development and evolution of an effective package of practices for organic conversion and cultivation.

The market for organic tea is in Europe and especially Germany. “The market in India is very small and a niche one,” he 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.

The process of organic transformation of Hathikuli garden was undertaken in 2007 and was achieved in 2011. “Though the move is good I am sceptical of the economic benefits after three years of conversion from inorganic to organic. Costs are rising,” C.S. Bedi, managing director of Rossel Tea, said.

The working group on climate change constituted by the Inter-governmental Group on Tea under the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, which met in Rome last year, had said organic cultivation of tea is a sustainable way to battle climate change. “Organic cultivation of tea is a sustainable way to combat climate change. Use of naturally available products, such as organic manure or compost, increases climate resilience,” the group had said in its report last year.

The tea board today announced that tea production in 2014-15 was 1197.18 million kg, of which the share of Assam was 606.80 million kg. The production in 2014 calendar year from January to December was 1207.31 million kg, of which Assam’s share is 610.97 million kg.

Retrieved from – http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150604/jsp/frontpage/story_23884.jsp#.VW_TVNKqqkq

Advertisements

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.

IMG_1727

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)

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/

Hathikuli tea goes organic

Guwahati, Jan. 20: Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited (APPL), the second largest tea producer in the country, is going for all-out promotion of its Hathikuli organic brand.

The move is apparently spurred by the 50 per cent annual growth witnessed by the organic tea market.

Though its production is time-consuming and it enjoys a niche market, organic tea holds immense potential to get remunerative prices.

A company official said the three-year-long conversion of Hathikuli garden into an organic one has been a learning experience at every stage. It takes nearly four to five years to convert a garden into an organic one and results in tremendous crop loss.

The official said the plan was to sell the entire produce of Hathikuli in the retail market in the next five to six years and added that a retail outlet to promote the organic brand would also be opened.

It is also promoting and selling the brand online (infibeam.com) and through mega retailers like Spencers and Metro Cash & Carry. “The response has been good till now,” the official said.

A parliamentary standing committee report — Performance of Plantation Sector: Tea and Coffee Industry — stated that the organic tea industry, being labour intensive, generated huge scope for employment. Moreover, it said that the lack of chemical use and introduction of organic practices indirectly benefited the workers and their families. It added that the low or no carbon content of these teas made them exclusive and helped fetch premium prices worldwide.

The production process entails additional costs not only on the production front but also in getting it certified and marketed. In order to fetch a premium, it is necessary for the producers to go in for direct marketing.

“Conversion from conventional to organic tea not only leads to immediate crop loss during the conversion period, but it also takes nearly 10 to 12 years to regain the original level of production. Besides, there is greater difficulty in sourcing the organic field inputs, especially for plant protection. It also warrants additional labour force for application of field inputs and proper upkeep of the plantations,” Tea Board chairman M.G.V.K. Bhanu said.

Keeping these limitations in view, the Tea Board is proposing to provide special incentives towards cost of replanting/replacement of old tea areas when they are converted to organic. “For such activities, the subsidy would cover, to some extent, the value of crop lost during the gestation period. Incentive would be provided for the new planting and certification cost. Preference would also be given to organic tea producers for participating in international fairs and exhibitions,” Bhanu said.

Though a few companies have started organic tea production, a package of best practices for organic tea cultivation is yet to be formulated.

The parliamentary standing committee wants the small tea growers to be included in the organic tea movement. “These small growers already possess livestock on their plantations and have been in the production of farm compost for long. Further, the financial constraints restraining their capacity to use chemical fertilisers and pesticides in their fields have made it easier for them to switch over to organic cultivation,” it said.

The committee asked the department of commerce to take steps to promote organic tea cultivation among small tea growers and include them in training programmes.

The committee found that organic tea is directly marketed and producers have to travel extensively in Europe, the US and Japan and directly contact organic consumer groups for sale of their product and would like the department of commerce to facilitate the growers in search of markets for organic tea through appropriate incentives.

Retrieved from – http://telegraphindia.com/1130121/jsp/northeast/story_16462145.jsp#.UP47Ix1JOQJ