TEA INDUSTRY IN INDIA

 

India is one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of tea. In fact, almost three quarters of its tea is enjoyed within its own borders (even though Indians average only half a cup of tea per person each day). Many of the teas on the market today are unique to India, grown only on Indian soil. Its earliest roots are somewhat blurred and there are a few theories regarding who first thought to place these leaves in hot water and drink it. The first documented drinking of tea was between 750 and 500 BCE (Before our Common Era). Tea had been grown and consumed in India for centuries before the European explorers arrived.

One of the most widely spread beliefs is that Hanuman was sent to the Himalayan Mountain Range in order to fetch the Sanjeevani plant for healing purposes. He then infused these in hot water, making the first tea brew. The Japanese say that the Indian monk called Bodhidharma discovered it, while the Chinese maintain that another monk, Gan Lu, travelled to India and brought several tea plants back with him and started to grow them in China.

When the European explorers arrived, they established a spice route for the many delightful and intriguing flavours for
Image of indian women harvesting tea
Tea growing in Southern India
which India suddenly earned global acclaim (including cinnamon and black pepper). In the early 1820’s, the British East India Company began to focus on the tea industry, producing large amount of it using the cheap labour of the locals. By 1837, the first English tea garden was established in Upper Assam. By the end of the 19th century, Assam was the world leader in tea production. The teas of Assam, Darjeeling and Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) remain some of the world’s most commonly drunk.

Today, India is second only to China in terms of tea production and that because China has far more arable land available for cultivation. This means that the tea industry plays an integral role in the country’s economy, employing large numbers of locals and sustaining their families and, therefore, societies to a large extent. Over half of the workforce in this sector is made up of women.

For this reason, the Indian government has implemented specific actions in order to promote and sustain this lucrative industry. Some of these efforts have included lobbying with the World Trade Organisation, partnering with countries like Brazil, Mexico and Chile to take legal action against certain laws and Acts. When the market for tea and coffee changed, the government responded by setting up a specific body (the Inter-Ministerial Committee or IMC) to address the issue. This body was responsible for advising the government to contribute financially towards the plantation industry and to introduce measures to reduce the agricultural income tax levied, thereby making the tea industry a more competitive one.

In 2004, The Special Tea Term Loan (STTL) was made formal. This was designed to restructure parts of outstanding loans which were irregular so that there would be a formal repayment term of five to seven years with a moratorium of one year.

Today, the Tea Board is planning their increased influence on new markets (Iran, Egypt, Pakistan and Vietnam, for example) and existing markets (such as the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Iraq).

Additional tea growing areas include:

Kerala
Karnataka
Himachal Pradesh
Uttaranchal
Sikkim
Orissa
Bihar
Arunachal Pradesh
Tripura
Manipur
Nagaland

As of 2009, there were 1692 registered tea manufacturers, 2200 registered tea exporters, 5848 registered tea buyers and nine tea auction centres.


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