Darjeeling tea is famous all over the world for its special taste and aroma. Due to these specialties, this tea has also got GI tag. But now ‘substandard’ quality tea coming from neighboring Nepal is threatening its identity. The tea growers of Darjeeling have sent a letter to the Tea Board apart from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to curb this problem. Some producers allege that Nepal is sending inferior quality tea imported from China to the Indian markets. The increasing arrival and availability of tea from Nepal has a direct impact on the prices of the coveted Darjeeling tea. Its prices have come down by 20 to 25 percent during a year. People associated with the tea industry allege that especially a section of traders is selling tea from Nepal as Darjeeling tea. Anyone in India can freely import tea from Nepal under a legally free trade agreement. However, the average price of Darjeeling tea per kg in wholesale sales ranges between Rs 320 to 360. But Nepal’s traditional variety of tea costs less than half of it.
“It is not possible for a consumer to understand whether he is drinking tea from Nepal or from Darjeeling. The taste and aroma of these two are very similar,” says an official of a tea company running a plantation in Darjeeling. Sources say that every year about 16 million kilograms of Nepalese tea comes to India, out of which about 30 to 40 lakh kilograms of tea is of the traditional variety. This variety of tea influences the sales of Darjeeling tea. In terms of taste, aroma and appearance, Nepal’s especially elaam variety tea is a close alternative to Darjeeling tea. Difficult to ban Darjeeling’s 87 tea estates produce 80-85 lakh kg of tea annually. People associated with this industry say that in the year 2017 due to the agitation of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in Darjeeling, the tea gardens were closed for four months. At the same time, the sale of Nepali tea in India had increased. DTA President B. Of. Saria says, “It is difficult to ban Nepali tea, because India has a free-trade agreement with Nepal.
We have asked the Tea Board to increase surveillance on Nepalese tea so that it is not sold in the domestic market under the name of Darjeeling tea.” He says that Japanese buyers also pulled out after erratic supply in the year 2017. Kilo used to buy Darjeeling tea.The Tea Association of India has urged the Union Ministry of Commerce to take concrete initiatives to curb this problem by raising the issue of loss of reputation and sales of Darjeeling tea due to the increasing dominance of Nepali tea. According to the data of the National Tea and Coffee Development Board, Nepal, more than half of the 252 million kg of tea produced annually in 157 tea gardens of the country (Nepal) is exported to India. The Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA), an organization of 87 tea garden owners of Darjeeling area, recently sent a letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee demanding a complete ban on the import of cheap and substandard tea imported from Nepal to save the industry. In the letter B.K.Saria, the president of the organization It has been said, “Darjeeling tea production decreased from 9.5 million kg in the year 2017 to six million kg in 2020 due to the movement in the mountainous region. During this the salary of the employees increased by about 50 percent.” After that during the lockdown due to Corona, domestic and foreign markets were affected.
Now the cheap tea coming from Nepal has done the right thing. It is being sold as Darjeeling tea.” Demand to set standards The DTA estimates that during the year 2020, about 9 million kg of tea imported from Nepal was sold in the name of Darjeeling tea. Sandeep Mukherjee, Principal Advisor, DTA says “The situation is really serious. Darjeeling’s tea industry is not getting enough attention. If the arrival of tea from Nepal continues like this, then this industry will become worse and many plantations will be closed. This will affect the livelihood of thousands of people.” According to DTA data, 67 thousand people have got direct employment and about four lakh people indirectly from Darjeeling’s tea industry. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has taken the problem seriously. Taking from the Chief Secretary has sought a detailed report on the whole matter. After that the issue will be taken up with the Centre. The Tea Board has also stressed on the need to prepare standards for the import of Nepalese tea from the Union Ministry of Commerce. To curb this hoax, a demand has been made to make it mandatory for imported tea to have the name of its producer country so that the sale of Nepalese tea as Darjeeling tea can be banned.