Agartala: With 58 big tea estates, Tripura accounts for 1% of the country’s tea production, which in 2007 was 8 million kg.
According to P K Sarkar, secretary, Tripura Tea Association, about 15% of the state’s total tea came from small and cooperative gardens. Small tea growers’ area is estimated at 1600 hectare, comprising 4700 small growers spread over the state.
“Large number of tribals are showing interest in planting tea after the Small Tea Growers Development Programme began in the late 90’s when the market was buoyant. The objective of the programme was to provide alternative livelihood to the rural population and settle jhumias who practise age-old shifting cultivation”, he added. Self-Help Groups (SHG) too are stepping forward to produce tea.
Tripura’s tea exports, especially to countries in the Middle East have registered a sharp increase. Manu Tea Factory, member of the Tripura Group of Gardens, exported 98,000 kg tea to Iran and will soon be exporting to Kazakhstan in central Asia.
The advantage of having the largest tea leaves drying machine (Japanese) in Asia has been one of the reasons for enhancing the levels of production. Sarkar said that production of tea in the state could go up further if uniterrupted power is assured and proper roads built in the periphery of the gardens.