‘Tea industry in crisis,’ stakeholders alert

Jhapa, Dec 10: Stakeholders have alerted the tea industry, the largest foreign exchange earner after cardamom, facing a crisis.

This concern has been raised at a time when the National Tea and Coffee Development Board (NTCDB) targets to bring in foreign currency twice as much in the current fiscal year 2080-81 compared to previous fiscal year.

Harka Tamang, a tea farmer, said the government does not list tea as an agricultural product and imposes electricity tariffs like for an industry hence affecting irrigation. Furthermore, the absence of an auction market is obstructing access to the international market.

Likewise, Central Vice President of All Nepal Trade Union Bhupal Sapkota blames the NTCDB for not playing an effective role in solving the problems of tea industrialists, businessmen, farmers and workers.

Central President of Nepal Tea Plantation Workers’ Union, Deepak Tamang, accused the state of being apathetic in solving the problems of the tea sector. He complained that even the board has not coordinated the implementation of the law while the workers of some plantations are not even getting wages as per the Labour Act.

Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Board, Bishnu Prasad Bhattarai, pledged to play an effective role in solving the existing problems in the tea sector and properly address all the problems raised by the stakeholders.

According to the statistics of the board, the country earned Rs 3.80 billion in foreign exchange through tea export last fiscal year. The main markets of Nepali tea are India, China, Sri Lanka, Russia, and the Netherlands.

There are 20,237 hectares of tea plantations in Nepal with 99 percent of it produced in Koshi province. In addition, 30 orthodox tea industries and 38 CTC tea industries employ 70,000 people.