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Kangra Tea Cultivation and Market Analysis

India is the 2nd largest producer of tea in the world. Assam Tea and Darjeeling Tea are the most recognized one. Major tea growing states are Assam, West Bengal, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal are also traditional tea growing states, albeit to a less significant extent. Tea constitutes one of the top ten exported agricultural commodities, with a contribution of around USD 0.8 billion.

Hitul Awasthi
kangra tea

An Introduction   

India is the 2nd largest producer of tea in the world. Assam Tea and Darjeeling Tea are the most recognized one. Major tea growing states are Assam, West Bengal, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal are also traditional tea growing states, albeit to a less significant extent. Tea constitutes one of the top ten exported agricultural commodities, with a contribution of around USD 0.8 billion.  

The Kangra Valley nestled in the Dhauladhar range of the western Himalayas, became part of British India in 1849, after the conclusion of the second Anglo-Sikh war. First commercial tea plantation in Himachal Pradesh was established in 1852 at Holta, Palampur.  With time the Kangra tea grew so popular that it won gold medal in London in 1886 for it’s superb flavour and quality. 

But this success was not long lived, the major earthquake in 1905 destroyed large number of tea gardens and factories in the valley and forced European planters to abandon the valley. This proved a mighty blow to the tea industry. 

Kangra Tea   

The Tea plants are excellent covers, so government should promote their cultivation to prevent soil erosion. According to Himachal Pradesh Ceiling of Land Holding Act, tea estate owners cannot sell inherited farms or use them for any other purpose. But with shrinking profits, younger generations are abandoning them and moving to other businesses. Kangra tea is registered under the GI of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 and got GI certification in 2005.  

In recent years the production has dwindled from 17-18 lakh kilograms to just 8-9 lakh kilograms. The tea auction centre in Kolkata is too far away and an expenditure of around INR 12 per kilogram in incurred in sending produce there. Once world famous for production and processing of tea, the Kangra valley no longer produces black tea for export. The tea industry in the state has been eclipsed by Darjeeling, Assam, and Nilgiri.

kangara tea

The government has also played a least attention towards tea plantations, due to it’s relatively smaller share towards the state economy. Most of the policies are targeted towards the apple industry which is worth INR 4,000 crore, with atleast 1.5 lakh families associated with it. While tea industry accounts to just INR 18-20 crore. 

Rao and others carried out the study in 2019, to enlist the major constraints faced by different stakeholders of Kangra Tea value chain. The major issues identified were: cooperative failures, unmarketed GI label, high labour cost and availability problem, seasonal demand and market availability problems. 

Tea Industry in Himachal Pradesh

(Source: Meghna Sood, 2016) 

In 1849, Dr. Jameson brought China tea plants to Kangra valley, from Almora and Dehradun. Both black and green teas were manufactured in Kangra. But, the disaster of 1905, instabilities in the major importing regions like Kashmir and Afghanistan, and liquidation of tea auction centre at Punjab in 2005, brought down the tea trade to a great extent. 

Quite unlike the organized tea planting that exists in Darjeeling, Assam and the Nilgiris, the Kangra tea, today literally survives against all odds. Dominated by small growers tea growing here is more of a cottage industry. At present, the tea acreage is estimated at 2,312 hectares with practically half the area considered either neglected or abandoned.  

Cooperative and corporate tea factories

During 1964-83, the state government of H.P. provided assistance for setting up of four cooperative tea factories. Since small growers lack the financial capacity to set up their own factories, they were encouraged to supply the green leaf to the coop factories, which would then process and market the made tea.  

But, sadly by year 2002, only the Palampur Tea Factory was functional, while the others shut down as operations became economically unviable.  

Tea Board of India stepped in to encourage large growers to invest in the region. A result of such intervention is Manjhee Valley, promoted by A.K. Singh, a veteran tea entrepreneur, and his son Kunal Singh who handles marketing based in New Delhi.  

Year 2003 - HP government leased the Sidhbari cooperative tea factory to the Singhs.  

Year 2006 - Baijnath cooperative tea factory was given on lease to Tewari and partners, who are now marketing Kangra teas under the brand name ‘Himtea’.  

Himalayan Enterprises Tea Factory - Produces the tea under the brand name “The HIMALAYAN BREW”, is 150 years old. The company owns its own tea plantations, processing and blending unit.  

Green Buds Tea – A Gopalpur based tea-processing unit, was established in the year 1927 by Late Sh. Jai Lal Butail.  

Wah Tea Estate - Established in 1857, owned since 1953 by Sheoparshad Jaiprakash & Co., of Kolkata, has seen its fortunes improve through a judicious mix of orthodox black and green tea production.  

Dharamshala Tea Company – Established in the year 1882, by great grandfather of Gurmeet Singh Mann the present fourth generation owner. From 2005, onwards they have shifted to production of black orthodox and other speciality tea like white tea, green tea and oolong tea. Teas are packed in the tins and cartons in the name of Mann Brand.  

Today tea industry in Kangra is dominated by few viz. Palampur Co-operative Tea Factory, Manjhee Valley Tea Estate, The Wah Tea Estate, Dharamshala Tea Company. The rest are small growers. This industry needs modernization with the change in technique of plantation, improvement of encouragement to electronic tea auction and managerial excellence.   

The Tea Board of India, Department of Tea Hubandry and Technology, CSK Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishavidyalya and CSIR- Indian of Himalayan Bioresources and Technology are working in collaboration to explore and implement new schemes for tea planters.  

SWOT analysis of Kangra Tea Industry   

(Source: Investigating the Kangra Valley Tea Industry, 2015) 



1.      Taste 

2.      Organic, orthodox processed and high quality tea 

3.      Active Tea Board 

4.      New brands arising from large factories 

5.      Available land 

1.      Divided, small-scale estate community  

2.      Inactive farms 

3.      Poor communication between estates and government  

4.      Labor cost and availability  

5.      Labor intensive, manual tea plucking and production  

6.      Lack of local market and marketing strategy 



1.      Domestic and International Marketing  

2.      Self-help group expansions  

3.      Technology for small estates plucking and processing  

4.      Government schemes towards self-help groups and technology subsidies 

1.      Unwanted pests and animals  

2.      Monsoon season  

3.      Aging Farmers 


Technologies developed by CSIR- Indian of Himalayan Bioresources and Technology – 

Technologies developed by the institute to generate bio-economy based bio-resources are – 

  • Tea catechins –

Tea leaves contain 15-20% of total polyphenols of which catechins constitute upto 80%. The global market of polyphenols is expected to reach USD 210 million by year 2022. 

  • Tea Wine –

Wine is un-distilled fermented beverage. Tea wine is a good source of antioxidants. Estimated global market of wine is USD 302 billion with an annual growth of over 5%. 

  • Ready to serve Tea Concentrate –

Estimated global market for tea concentrate and ready to drink tea is USD 76 billion in 2017 with annual growth of 7%. 1 ml of tea concentrate contains 3-4 mg of trolox equivalent antioxidants. 

Agro-technology package by IHBT – 

  • Till today, in India flavour tea production is limited to Darjeeling. H.P and Uttarakhand have great potential to extend China hybrid tea cultivation 

  • High yielding quality clone “Him Sphurthi” with 25% higher production is available with IHBT 

  • Provides training and skill development on modern agro-practices and tea processing 

IHBT played a key role in revival of Kangra tea – 

  • By rigorous extension of improved husbandry practices and processing techniques 

  • Provided scientific data and technical support to the Govt. of HP for acquiring Geographical Indication (GI) tag 

  • Popularized tea farm mechanization  

  • Developed tea withering machine to shorten the long drawn withering time of tea processing  

  • Developed value added products like tea concentrates and tea wines from low grade teas 

  • Developed process for extraction of catechin from coarse leaf 

  • Effectively translate and transfer the knowledge developed for the benefit of the tea industry of the region 

Tea Board of India – 

(Source: NABARD Tea Plantation) 

The Tea Board of India is contemplating to raise its production to 10 million kg by 2024 from current 1 million kg. Top ten export destinations for Indian tea are Russian Federation, United Kingdom, and Iran. 

The Board aims to bring more non conventional area under tea, rejuvenate abandoned and neglected tea gardens and plan various schemes, to encourage tea growers, with: 

  • Focus on small tea planters that constitute 99% of total tea growers 

  • Promotion of Self Help Groups 

Tea Development and Promotion Scheme – 

The scheme has seven major components covering broad areas of Tea Board’s operation: 

Component-1: Plantation Development;  

Component-2: Quality Up gradation and Product Diversification including Orthodox Production;  

Component -3: Market Promotion – Domestic and International;  

Component -4: Research and Development;  

Component -5: Human Resource development;  

Component -6: Development of Small Growers and  

Component -7: National Programme for Tea Regulation. 

Department of Tea Husbandry and Technology, CSH HP Krishi Vishvidyalaya – 

The “Tea Experiment Station” was established in year 1962 for promotion and popularization of Kangra Tea. Later in 1998, it was upgraded to full fledged department as “Department of Tea Husbandry and Technology”. 

The department has produced Kangra certified organic  

Dhauladhar Him Palam Tea

Thrust areas: 

  • Agro-techniques – 

  • Plantation management 

  • Standardization of technology for organic tea cultivation and processing 

  • Farm mechanization 

  • Integrated nutrient management 

  • Plant Protection – 

Integrated Pest Management through: Bio-pesticide, location resistance / tolerant strains and cultural practices 

Processing technology – 

  • Standardisation of different variables 

  • Blending of different seasons for uniform quality 

  • Designing and fabrication of tea machinery 

Extension – 

  • Organizing trainings, demonstrations and exposure visits 

  • Organization of adaptive trials 

  • Extension planting 

  • Rejuvenation and replanting in abandoned and neglected tea gardens 

  • Popularization of Kangra tea 

Kangra Tea Cultivation Guide – 

(Source: NABARD – Tea Plantation) 

Agro-climatic conditions –  

Well distributed rainfall ranging around 2000 mm to 5000 mm and monthly average maximum temperature ranging between 280Cand 320C during April to September, is good for the plantation. 

Soil Conditions –  

Sandy loam to silty loam type of soil with pH range of 4.5 - 5.5 is ideal for growing tea. Soil should possess a minimum 1% of organic carbon, 1-2% of organic matter, 35ppm of P2O5 and 80 ppm of K2O for successful establishment of tea. 

Choice of planting materials –  

In Kangra valley, the choice of planting material is limited to Kangra local (China Hybrid) based on the original China seed stock introduced by the then European planters and is still one of the favorite choices of the growers. 

Besides this the clonalsaplings of Kangra Asha, Kangra Jawala, Happy Valley-9, AV-2, UPASI-9, TR-1, SA-06, are also being propagated by the Tea Wing of Agriculture Department. 

Planting seasons –  

Planting of tea is done either in spring (June-July) after the first few showers of rain or in autumn (October-November) while the soil is still moist and the area has irrigation facilities. 

Land planning and Site Preparation –  

As the entire Kangra valley is undulating, planting in hilly areas should be done along the contour. After clearing the area / site of bushes, the land need to be levelled or terraced in case of undulating topography. If site conditions permit sub soiling, ploughing and harrowing will improve the soil surface for proper root growth and subsoil drainage. 

Drainage – 

Water-logging reduces the crop besides causing root diseases. Existing drains should be renovated as a routine practice to keep them functional. Regular cleaning and desilting of drains to 90cm depth is desirable. Protection of drain-edges with vegetation is more important than batter or depth. 

Layout, Method of Planting and Spacing - 

The advisable norms are 105cm X 65cm, 105cm X 75cm, 105cm X 60cm X 60cm, 105cm X 75cm X 60cm, etc for valley plantation, an a double hedge method of planting with a spacing of 105 cm X 70 cm along contours.  

A shift from manual operations to mechanical filed operations due to labour constraints; a spacing of 120 x 60cm X 60 cm has been adopted for this model scheme so as to accommodate mechanical operations.  

Pit digging and Refilling of Pits – 

After site clearance and layout, pits of 45 cm diameter and 45cm depth are to be dug. The soil should be mixed with 40 gm of Murate of Potash (MoP) alongwith 2 to 3 kg of bulky organic matter or well decomposed FYM per pit. 

Planting –  

Only well grown robust plants of 45 to 60 cm height with basal stem diameter of 0.5 – 0.8 cm and 8- 10 leaves should be planted in the main field.  

Planting of shade Trees –  

The most suitable shade trees in Kangra valley are Albizzia lebbeckAlbizzia proceraJacaranda mimosifolia, etc. These should be planted at a spacing of about 6 m x 6 m in site exposed to southern aspect and 10 m X 10 m in sites exposed to northern aspects. Later on depending upon the canopy development, these shade trees may be thinned depending on the canopy size at maturity.  


Mulching –  

Mulching helps conservation of soil moisture, prevents erosion, reduces weed growth and adds organic matter to the soil. 

Initial operations for training Bush after planting -

Frame forming in the initial stages is very important to build up the bush to give higher productivity. 

Debudding by nipping/removing all the growing buds from the main stem/growing shoots above 25cm from the ground. Once the branches below this height are developed, the top debudded portion is removed by clean pruning using a 7.5cm pruning knife. 

Pruning – 

In Kangra region 4 to 5 year pruning cycle is followed. A 4-year pruning cycle of Light Prune (LP) - Unpruned (UP) – Deep Skiff (DS) / Medium Skiff (MS) – Light Skiff (LS) – Unpruned (UP) may be adopted. The suitable time for light prune and deep skiff is between December and mid-January and that of medium skiff between January and early February. The plucking interval should be maintained between 7-8 days for quality. 

Weed control –  

In Kangra Valley various obnoxious weeds are found in tea gardens and adjoining areas. These include Parthenium, congress grass, lantanaSaccharum grass etc.  

Till the plants are about 1 year old, the young tea should be kept under manual weeding. Thereafter, very careful use of herbicides like simazine, 2, 4-D, oxyflurofan, paraquat, etc. can help in keeping the young tea (2 years and above) free from weed competition. For mature tea, herbicides like 2, 4-D, parquet, dalapon, glyphosate, simazine, etc., are useful for effective control of weeds. 

Pests and diseases control – 

The common pests like thrips, greenflies and mites, caterpillar pests, crickets, cockchafer grubs and termites normally create problem during the early years. In mature tea plants pests like red spider, pink, purple and scarlet mites, thrips, helopeltis, caterpillars, termites, etc., cause a great deal of crop loss.  

Among the diseases, red rust is a common one in young tea areas. In mature tea, besides this red rust, black rot, brown root rot, charcoal stump rot, blister blight, etc. are very common.  

Irrigation –  

In Kangra valle tea plantations receives adequate rainfall both in monsoon and winter seasons, not much irrigation is required. However, in the initial year of plantation, 2-3 critical irrigation, if required in rain shadow area or rain deficit period, may be provided.  

Fencing –  

Fencing of tea plantation is must to protect the tea plants from stray and wild animals especially in the initial years. Depending on the perimeter of the plot of land, the length of fencing required would vary. In order to reduce the cost, fencing with barbed wire with locally available wooden posts, preferably live, may be erected. 

Extension & Advisory Services – 

The small tea growers may avail necessary technical guidance from institutes like Tea Board, IHBT, CSKHPKVV, Tea Wing, Department of Agriculture, all having offices at Palampur. 

Conclusion – 

Agriculture Export Policy (AEP), 2018 has been formulated with a vision: “Harness export potential of Indian agriculture, through suitable policy instruments, to make India a global power in agriculture, and raise farmer’s income”. The Kangra Tea industry has a huge potential to grow. Technological developments and extension activities by IHBT, Tea Board and CSK Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishvavidyalaya will surely facilitate the development of this least exploited segment in Himachal Pradesh.  

Reference – 

Rao R, Reddy S and Verma P. 2019. What is Brewing with Kangra Tea. FIIB Business Review 8. 231971451984484.10.1177/2319714519844844. 

Sood M. 2016. Development of Tea Industry in Himachal Pradesh. International Journal on Emerging Technologies 7(2):44-47 

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