Kolkata: Tea lovers and industries across the world waiting for ‘second flush’ of Darjeeling tea which tends to brew darker – with little astringency taste – have been hit hard by the brewing crisis in the hill districts.
There are total 87 tea gardens with nearly 55,000 permanent workers and another 15,000 temporary workers left in the lurch because of the shutdown which came in the middle of the production of the second flush.
This variety is nearly 20-21% of total Darjeeling’s tea production and approximately 41% of its revenue. But due to the ongoing turmoil, many tea associations are now claiming that there will be no export of Darjeeling tea in this season because of no production and have estimated a loss of more than Rs 250 crore in revenue.
As per statistics, they have already incurred a loss of nearly Rs 100 crores and are expecting a further loss of Rs 150 Crore in the coming days. If situation didn’t improve, then the tea growers will face further losses for during the monsoon flush (September), autumn flush (October and November) and winter flush (November and February).
At the famous Jungpana tea garden, some tried to get the crop from the second flush but failed due to lack of support from the agitators who are demanding separate Gorkhaland. Jungpana is a small tea estate with big clients like Harrods and Fortnum & Mason in UK, Mariage Frères (a French gourmet tea company based in Paris), Fauchon (a French company) and the Royal Family of Japan.
Sandeep Mukherjee, the principal advisor to the Darjeeling Tea Association, said, “With the current situation no one knows when the world will be able to savour one of the finest tea on earth – which is like Champagne for tea lovers. Importers are concerned because all the consignments were cancelled.”
He said, “More than 2 lakhs people were affected with the bandh. Even if they (GJM) call off the strike – it will take another 20 days to prepare the gardens for fresh production. Nearly 65% of tea gardens in Hills are organic field because producers don’t use any chemical or fertilizer – this make the crop prone to pesticide attack. Also, the leaves are over grown now (no use) and it need to be trimmed. So the entire process will take another 20-25 days for fresh cultivation.”
Ashok Kumar Lohiya, one of the leading tea exporters of Darjeeling who also owns few tea gardens in the Hills, said, “More than export issue, we are worried about the workers. There is no job for them and no money to feed their families. We are really worried about the situation.”
“We export tea all over the world including Japan, UK, America, Austria, Germany but this time due to zero production there is a serious loss in the business,” he said while adding that in 2016 8.45 million kg of Darjeeling Tea was produced. Trouble began on June 12, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s (GJM) called for indefinite shutdown in the hills after state government made Bangla language compulsory in all schools. GJM general secretary Roshan Giri refused to comment on this matter.