Bought Leaf Hopes: Rising Prices Buoy Factories

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Are Small Tea Growers the future for the survival of tea?

Sir,
The recommendations suggested by Mr. Dharmaraj Narendranath in this article are being followed by the tea industry in Rwanda. Speaking from my experience of working with the model for some years, there are some pros and cons as under:

Pros
All small tea growers are organised under the Cooperative model.
All green leaf supply from the cooperative is tied to a designated factory which avoids the current chaos of small tea growers running around trying to sell green leaf to the highest bidder.
Good potential for the Cooperative and the tied Factory to build a good working partnership to improve practices etc.
Government has ensured decent infrastructure in place to take care of medical and other infrastructure like housing.
The Cooperatives own minority share in the factory company and have a seat on the Boards ensuring some accountability of factory performance.
Ideally this model should and could encourage farmers to become entrepreneurs by adding other high value products like honey and organic specialty fruits and vegetables to their stable to augment their incomes and not be totally reliant on just tea.

Cons
All regulations and factory green leaf buying prices tightly controlled by the Government Tea Board.
The internal management of all Cooperatives have not reached the ideal level of efficiency and transparency.
Small farmers might be earning a bit more but still not enough to encourage the younger farmers to take up the tea business and/or the older farmers to pluck more often on their largely unviable sized plots.

Therefore, in India, there will need to be an assured and guaranteed earning capacity from the tea plot that would help tilt the balance in favour of a tea grower being the owner entrepreneur of his own plot or remain content as as an employee of a plantation company with guaranteed housing, medical and other benefits.

With ref to India, it would also be interesting to find out why the Tata's disinvestment in plantations in South India in favour of their employees succeeded but did not quite do so in North India?

Regards
Dilsher Sen
dilshersen@gmail.com

Dilsher Sen 6 days ago

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