Small grow­ers en­joy a place in the sun via or­ganic tea

Farmer-pro­ducer firm sets flavour for prof­itable cul­ti­va­tion

The Hindu - - BUSINESS REVIEW - E.M. Manoj

The Wayanad Green Tea Pro­ducer Com­pany has be­come a kind of role model for small tea grow­ers in the coun­try by en­sur­ing sus­tain­able in­come through or­ganic tea cul­ti­va­tion.

‘Ac­cord­ing to the data with the Tea Board, as many as 3,500 reg­is­tered smallscale farm­ers in the dis­trict de­pend on the tea sec­tor for their liveli­hood. But most of them are left to the mercy of bought leaf agents and bought leaf fac­to­ries in the ab­sence of any pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties in the small-scale tea sec­tor of the dis­trict,’ said Jose Se­bas­tian, CEO of the com­pany.

As the farm­ers had no ac­cess to tea fac­to­ries, they were forced to sell their pro­duce to the bought leaf agents or the mid­dle­men as per the price fixed by them.

Five years ago, mem­bers of the Small Tea Grow­ers So­ci­ety at Karadip­para and the Kar­shaka Jyothi Small Tea Grow­ers So­ci­ety at Vat­ta­chola in the dis­trict con­sti­tuted Wayanad Green Tea Pro­ducer Com­pany, a farmer-pro­ducer or­gan­i­sa­tion, with the sup­port of NABARD to over­come ex­ploita­tion by the mid­dle­men.

Fi­nally, they set up a fac­tory ex­clu­sively for green tea pro­cess­ing at Karadip­para to tap the vast po­ten­tial of or­ganic green tea.

The com­pany, which started with 15 share­hold­ers and ₹10 lakh in au­tho­rised cap­i­tal, now has 167 share­hold­ers and an au­tho­rised cap­i­tal of ₹50 lakh, Mr. Jose said.

The fac­tory had been set up at a cost of ₹83 lakh, in­clud­ing ₹45.80 lakh in as­sis­tance from NABARD and ₹3 lakh as start-up grant from the State In­dus­tries Depart­ment, he said.

With a ca­pac­ity to process 3,600 kg of green tea leaf in three shifts a day, the fac­tory started func­tion­ing from May 7, 2018.They had sold 1,136 kg green tea and 322 kg or­tho­dox tea till De­cem­ber at a farm gate price of ₹500 a kg of green tea and ₹200 a kg of or­tho­dox tea.

“We could not utilise the full po­ten­tial of the fac­tory ow­ing to the dearth of green leaves dur­ing sum­mer,” Mr. Jose said, adding that the com­pany was plan­ning to op­er­ate two shifts from the next sea­son.

Bet­ter prices

‘We are getting ₹40 a kg for our tea leaves now but, two years ago, we were forced to sell it at ₹5 to ₹9 a kg to bought leaf agents, says K.K. Pad­man­ab­han Nam­biar, a farmer and a di­rec­tor of the com­pany. More­over, pro­duc­tion cost is also very low com­pared with tra­di­tional tea cul­ti­va­tion as we are fol­low­ing an or­ganic way of cul­ti­va­tion here, he said.

‘The com­pany has be­come a model in or­ganic tea cul­ti­va­tion for small-scale farm­ers in the coun­try and the Tea Board is pro­vid­ing in­cen­tives and sub­si­dies to pro­mote or­ganic tea cul­ti­va­tion, K. Karthikeyan, de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer, Tea Board, Wayanad said.

Brim­ming cuppa: Tea leaves now fetch ₹40 a kg. Two years ago, farm­ers had to sell them at ₹5-₹9 a kg to agents.

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