The tea industry in West Bengal contributes 26 per cent of India’s total production but it is struggling with depressed prices and falling exports. Insiders debate how and whether it could script a recovery
BREWING TROUBLE: Pluckers at a tea garden in Darjeeling (Getty Images)
The medicinal value of tea, and the best way to drink it, is something that has exercised aficionados of the beverage for long. However, now it’s the very fate of the Rs 20,000 crore tea industry in India that is in need of some of that attention. Sixteen tea gardens in West Bengal have had to close since September on account of depressed prices in the domestic market and sluggish exports. Eight of these gardens—Ambotia, Moondakotee, Rongmook Cedar, Chongtong, Mullootar, Nagari, Pandom and Peshok—are situated in Darjeeling district, while another three—Kathalguri, Bamandanga-Tondu, Samsing—are in Jalpaiguri district. The remaining five—Kalchini, Raimatang, Dalsingpara, Dalmore and Ramjhora—fall in Alipurduar district. The closure of these gardens has impacted the lives of over 10,000 tea labourers since the start of the festive season in October.