India is now the world’s second-largest producer of tea, accounting for one-fifth of global production with annual output exceeding 1.2 billion kgs. It is also the world’s fourth largest exporter, trailing only China, Sri Lanka, and Kenya.
Issues have an impact on tea production in the county.
- Tea price decline: Due to a variety of factors, the auction price of tea has steadily declined over the years. According to the World Bank, tea prices have fallen by nearly 44% in real terms.
- In India, all profits from tea gardens were syphoned off, with no real or proper reinvestment in improving tea quality.
- Licensing and quotas: Tea production requires a separate licence.
o Exports are restricted, with quotas and allotments in place.
- Draconian provisions: As the tea industry declined steadily in the 1970s, the government armed itself with the authority to take over the management of any estate that remained closed for more than three months without investigation.
- Less tea production: The tea industry is dealing with a number of issues, including a financial crisis, power issues, labour issues, poor labour schemes, an inadequate communication system, an increased revenue tax for tea gardens, an increased pollution fee, a reduction in transportation subsidies, and so on.
o All of this has combined to put the tea industry in jeopardy, resulting in low production of tea leaves and tea.
- Labor demand: Aside from natives, the majority of workers in Assam and Bengal’s tea gardens have migrated from states such as Bihar, Orissa, and Madhya Pradesh since the late nineteenth century. These workers rely solely on the tea industry for their daily income and survival.
o However, labour migration has decreased in recent years, resulting in a reduction in the number of workers in tea factories.
o The number of local labourers has also decreased due to a decrease in the number of tea labourers for NREGA.
- Inadequate storage: The issue of storing premium quality tea has always existed. Because of transportation delays and a lack of storage facilities, processed tea absorbs moisture from the atmosphere and loses quality.
- Climatic factors: Unfavorable climatic conditions for tea plantations as a result of insufficient or excessive rainfall have harmed the tea industry.
Climate Change’s Impact on the Tea Industry
- Temperature and precipitation variations have been shown to affect tea yield as well as the complex balance of chemicals that gives tea its flavour and potential health benefits.
- According to a 2018 survey of tea-farm workers in Assam, 88% of plantation managers and 97% of smallholders said that adverse weather conditions were a clear threat to their tea-growing operations.
- Climate change is pushing Assam’s rainfall to extremes, resulting in a decrease in overall precipitation but more instances of drought and heavy rain.
- The heavy rains cause soil erosion and waterlogging, which harms root development and reduces tea plant yield.
- A 2016 study in Assam found that drought had no effect on yield, but other research suggests that drought makes tea plants more susceptible to insect pests.
Measures required to reorient the tea industry
- Addressing climate change: To address climate change, the industry will need to collaborate with a variety of agencies and partners, including TRA Tocklai, to research and develop new tea clones, provide information on improving soil fertility, and research rainfall and water management systems.
- Repealing old laws:
As in Sri Lanka, it has been suggested that India consider dovetailing various government schemes with the benefits provided by the PLA, 1951 – this will reduce the burden on Tea producers regarding compliance with the PLA, 1951 – and also help increase the workers’ quality of life.
- Product marketing: Small tea growers need a marketing arrangement to help them sell their product at the right price and increase their market accessibility.
- Raising awareness of better plantation techniques and plantation worker rights, as well as providing financial assistance to increase mechanisation in tea gardens.
- Community development, which includes improving education, healthcare, and welfare access, facilitating access to government programmes, and ensuring safe migration.
- Increasing smallholders’ knowledge of good agricultural and pest management practises, as well as improving integration with the rest of the industry
The law must address how to develop and scale-up approaches to address the sustainability challenges confronting the Indian tea industry and communities, so that producers thrive, workers’ lives and the environment improve, and purchasing companies can be confident that they are sourcing sustainably produced teas.