Why Kangra Tea is struggling?
Kangra tea is facing a crisis and many of the tea growers in Kangra valley are abandoning the tea gardens. The key reasons of this crisis are discussed here:
Lack of quality planting material and technical knowhow
The Kangra valley growers are unable to find good quality planting material and they are not knowledgeable about the performance of the crop and nursery plants they are planting. The government apathy and policy blunders resulted in absence of any formal channel of imparting latest knowhow to the planters.
Non-availability of labour during plucking period adversely affects the productivity and quality of gardens. Then, the workers have no knowhow of correct plucking operation.
Lack of Mechanization
Most of the planters undertake hand plucking. Tea mechanization and farm mechanization process have not occurred in these gardens.
The faster pace of urbanization in Kangra district is luring the planters to sell their land for handsome cash.
Competition and other reasons
Kangra’s tea industry is struggling to compete with Sikkim and Assam varieties in the market. The steep rise in cost of inputs and falling margins are another reasons. Further, Kangra region is also witnessing a slow invasion of apple trees in the tea plantations. The tea planters are now banking on apple to change their fortunes.
According to a report published in The Tribune, the industry also facing a policy problem whereby the marketing and development of tea industry in Himachal Pradesh was shifted from Industries department to Agriculture Department. The planters allege that the Agriculture Department failed to deliver the goods and neglected the development and marketing of tea in the region.
Measures taken to protect the Kangra Industry
Kangra Tea is one of the GI protected commodities in India. The state government along with Union Government has made some efforts to provide a niche based market for Kangra tea.
What should be done?
- Kangra tea needs better government policy, adoption of technology in production and brand promotion. A roadmap should be prepared for only Brand Promotion of Kangra tea.
- Kangra tea is unique in its quality and has potential to compete in international market on account of its special flavour. But the growing area is very small. Governments need to encourage farmers to grow the tea in Kangra as well as nearby areas of Kullu, Mandi etc. The state government had formulated such scheme but so far this scheme is not in operation.
- The state agricultural university and Tea Board of India should come forward to enlighten the farmers in terms of productivity and quality. This can be done by organizing camps in selected areas for latest knowledge dissemination.
- Labour problem can be corrected by creation of a labour bank and a centralized facility with skill manpower and machines.
- The Self Help Groups and Cluster approach and reviving the Kangra Tea Planters Association.