TEA NEWS: Hill brew eyes leap in sale – planter bodies differ on marketing

TEA NEWS: Hill brew eyes leap in sale – planter bodies differ on marketing – high price difference between auction and retail prices leaves ITA unimpressed and DTA embarrassed ?!!

Darjeeling Tea Estates - too exquisite a product for mass auctions, need rarity auctions instead ?!!


Darjeeling, Nov. 11: The Indian Tea Association, which has been revived recently in the hills, has decided to explore “non-traditional” and domestic markets for the Darjeeling Tea as there has been a shrink in the demand for the produce abroad.

But the Darjeeling Tea Association said the brand image of the hill brew would be diluted if too many organisations started searching for markets.

Seventeen gardens in Darjeeling have recently changed their membership from the DTA to the ITA. Most of the other gardens are still with the DTA, which till a few months back was the only association representing the Darjeeling tea industry. The hills have around 80 tea estates, whose produce can be sold as Darjeeling Tea across the world.

“Plans are afoot to provide more international recognition and access to buyers of Darjeeling Tea through ITA’s network. We want to focus on non-traditional markets like Iran, Egypt, UAE and Azerbaijan,” said Arun Singh, the managing director of Goodricke and the chairperson of the ITA’s West Bengal Regional Centre.

The major bulk of Darjeeling Tea is currently exported to the UK, Germany and Japan.

The ITA also said it had a legacy of corporate social responsibility and it hoped that the initiative to hunt for more consumers would be appreciated by all.

Asked about the reason behind some hill gardens’ shift to the ITA, which was in place till the DTA — formerly known as the Darjeeling Planters’ Association — was formed in the early 1980s, Singh said: “Given the prevailing situation then, it was thought that a Darjeeling-centric association was needed. Now, we believe the purpose has been achieved and we need to look beyond.”

M. Das Gupta, the secretary general of the ITA, said the planters wouldn’t like to underestimate the domestic market. “A recent survey conducted by ORG-MARG and partly funded by the ITA showed that Darjeeling Tea is not recognised in the Indian domestic market. India today has the highest number of billionaires and let us not underestimate the domestic market,” said Das Gupta.

There was a general perception among tea connoisseurs that as Darjeeling Tea had huge demand in international markets, no major campaign was needed to consolidate the produce’s position in India.“Because of economic recession, the produce doesn’t fetch high price abroad. Moreover, many are moving to Sri Lanka and other countries to buy tea,” said Das Gupta.

Although Darjeeling Tea has a highest production cost of around Rs 300 per kilogram on an average, the price the produce yields at auctions is only around Rs 350. But the retail price of the commodity is more than Rs 1,000. The ITA said it would strive to bridge the huge gap between the prices at the auctions and retail markets.

The DTA, however, seemed unimpressed with the ITA’s initiative.

“Production of Darjeeling Tea is shrinking. The DTA and the Tea Board took up a number of initiatives, which have led to the hill brew’s consolidation in export markets. All these attempts will be diluted and importers may get confused if so many associations are formed,” said Sandeep Mukherjee, the secretary of the DTA.

Singh, however, refused to buy the DTA’s argument.

“Many gardens were privately marketing their produce earlier and the ITA can provide better access to markets without harming anyone’s interest.”

Carron warned of tea action – stuck in a chicken or egg security situation, no reason for all to be reasonable ?!!


Siliguri, Nov. 11: The subdivisional officer of Malbazar has warned the management of the closed Carron Tea Estate that action would be taken against it if its representatives fail to attend a tripartite meeting on Tuesday, aimed to reopen the garden.

The management of the garden in Nagrakata block did not attend the last two meetings convened by the administration to end the stalemate. The estate has been shut since October 2 following an alleged assault on some managerial staff by a section of workers the previous day.

A letter (in the possession of The Telegraph) written by SDO Nilkamal Biswas to the manager of Carron yesterday said: “You are hereby requested to attend the meeting positively. Furthermore, the failure on your part to attend the meeting would give rise to the possibility of letting the matter go out of hand in which circumstances we will be forced to act against you….”

Biswas had convened a meeting on October 26 between the owner and representatives of the two trade unions operating in the estate. Another meeting was called by the assistant labour commissioner in Malbazar. The SDO’s move, which is a departure from the conciliatory tone adopted by the administration to convince managements to reopen locked out estates, has drawn flak from the owner.

“Even though we have formally announced lockout in the garden for lawlessness, the SDO has blamed us for abandoning the garden,” said P.K. Basu, the owner, over the phone from Calcutta. He alleged that the administration, instead of warning the workers who had attacked the managers, was training guns on the owner.


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