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Tea Planters in Tripura Face Crop Loss and Price Drop

The second largest industry in the state after rubber i.e., the tea industry is facing "crop loss" this season due to a drought-like situation.

Shivangi Rai
The largest garden in Tripura is the Manu Valley tea estate which yields more than 15 lakhs kg per year
The largest garden in Tripura is the Manu Valley tea estate which yields more than 15 lakhs kg per year

On Sunday, stakeholders said that tea planters in Tripura are observing a "shortage" in production due to a continuous dry spell in the northeastern state with "falling" prices of the crop putting pressure on margins.

The second largest industry in the state after rubber i.e., the tea industry is facing "crop loss" this season due to a drought-like situation, Tripura Tea Development Corporation (TTDC) chairman Santosh Saha said.

He said, "Our production has been hit due to drought-like conditions. There is a shortage of leaves, and the volume in the auction market has also decreased. It is a tough situation for us to get profit."

State-run TTDC has five estates and two manufacturing units with an annual production capability of 8 lakh kg. Annually, Tripura produces 90 lakh kg of tea.

Saha said, "There is no support price for tea from the government as provided for paddy. This system prevails in the entire country."

Unakoti district's Manu Valley tea garden manager Prabir De said the continuous rainless period has dreadfully impacted production in the state, and despite the shortage, the selling price has come down to Rs 200 per kg from Rs 300 last year. The largest garden in Tripura is the Manu Valley tea estate which yields more than 15 lakhs kg per year.

De told, "Now, the production cost per kg is Rs 160-170. Usually, we sell tea at Rs 300 per kg in April or May and the rate comes down to Rs 150 in October. So, this is the time we make profits and also compensate for the loss in October."

He said that big planters can control the loss up to some extent, but small growers are facing difficulties to deal with the situation.

He also said that there are 52 private-run gardens in the northeastern state and 22 factories for manufacturing tea, but now, only 13 are in operation due to the shortage of leaves.

When contacted, Tea Board factory advisory officer Tuhin Debnath said, "Evaluation for crop loss is on. Now, we do not have any data. So, I can’t tell the exact amount of crop damage due to drought."

Owner of Shova Tea Estate, Sumedha Das said, "In 2013, the cash component of a laborer’s wage was Rs 58 per day besides free rations and shelter. A worker's wage has risen to Rs 176 per day in addition to other incentives. The price of coal rose to Rs 20 per kg as compared to Rs 13 per kg three years ago. But, the selling price of tea is not increasing."

She affirmed that the government in neighboring Assam disbursed Rs 63.05 crores as a financial incentive to 370 tea gardens to assist them mitigate the adverse effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, but so far "In Tripura, no incentive was given to tea planters."

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