The tea grown in the Nilgiris is mainly due the tireless efforts of the hardworking Badaga community with their small tea holdings [tea estates called ‘Thotta’]. Unfortunately, like in many parts of the country, these small tea growers – farmers who sell the green tea leaves plucked from their small and tiny tea estates to the local Tea Factories, have been getting a raw deal due to the cartelization and the middle men, the so called tea brokers along with a ‘could not care less’ attitude of the Tea Board.
Many, in sheer desperation and disgust, have sold their land [tea estates] to property developers or abandoned the idea of growing tea. Needless to add, they are always at the ‘receiving end’.
Though a few informed ‘elders’ like Hubbathalai Siva have been trying their best to get a better price for the small tea growers, no substantial benefits have resulted so far. Will there be a better tomorrow that can bring cheers with chai? – Wg Cdr JP
Hubbathalai N Sivan, Promoter & Social Entrepreneur, Nilgiris Tea Development Foundation(NTDF), OOTYFRESH Speciality Nilgiris Tea Project (Sustainable Development & Inclusive Growth Initiative for Nilgiris Small Tea Gowers) writes :
The Nilgiris Small Tea Growers have been protesting since more than a decade to get remunerative price for their green tea leaves.
At one stage, Mr.R.Dharuman, a small tea grower has gone to Madras High Court taking this plight and the court has given a historic verdict, and directed the government to work out the modalities and give realistic price for green tea leaves produced by small tea growers of the Nilgiris.
But, despite Tea Board’s intervention to implement the court order, the Nilgiris based Bought Leaf Factories(BLFs) have got court stay on the same and continue the prevailing Price Sharing Formula (PSF), which is only benefiting themselves thereby putting small tea growers in problems.
Hence, some like- minded and quality-conscious small tea growers put pressure on the government to give permission to establish their own Micro and Mini Tea Factories in a view to get remunerative price for their own green tea leaves under Make in India and Startup India initiatives.
The government(TEA BOARD) then notified establishment of Micro and Mini Tea Factories on 23-12-2013 in the Nilgiris by the Small Tea Growers who can produce 200-500 kgs of ‘Made Teas’ in their factories, exempting from Tea Marketing Control Order 2013 declared 40% subsidy for these factories.
But, the small tea growers are still in problem and did not get green signal so far from the government to establish their own Micro and Mini Tea factories for reasons best known to Tea Board and they smell foul play by some influential tea industry entities, trying to stop the initiatives of small tea growers, whose sustainability and livelihood are at stake now.
If the environment continues again, then the Small Tea Growers have no other option, but to stop plucking their green tea leaves and protest to quit the field.
Would the government look into this, at least now?
Sivan and others meeting the Union Commerce secretary at Ooty on the eve of IITC -2016
HN Sivan adds :
IITC-2016 IS A WELCOME EVENT FOR THE NILGIRIS TEA INDUSTRY.
THE ORGANISERS SHOULD BE LAUDED FOR BRINGING SOME TOP INTERNATIONAL TEA TRADING COMMUNITY TO NILGIRIS BY WHICH WE SURELY WILL HAVE GOOD SCOPE FOR OUR TEAS IN FUTURE.
BUT,THE MAIN STAKE HOLDERS-THE NILGIRIS SMALL TEA GROWERS, WHO HAVE AROUND 85% SHARE IN CONTRIBUTION FROM OUR DISTRICT WERE NOT INVITED FOR THE EVENT TO EXPOSE THEM TO INTERNATIONAL TEA COMMINITY..
IS IT A TEAM UP INITIATIVE FOR SUSTAINABILITY?