After the hike in salary of the sub-staff of Darjeeling Tea plantations, the super-staff salary hike is also on the chart which will be applicable from April 2012.

After negotiations with the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labor Union (DTDPLU) - affiliated to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) - the garden management has announced a 33% salary hike for super-staff including clerks, medical and technical workers.

After the increase in bonus and wages of the sub-staff earlier this year, the DTDPLU had been demanding an increase in salary of the super-staff. The union had even threatened to paralyze work in the garden last week after the management failed to do so.

Finally, the decision to increase the salary was taken at a meeting that was held till late in the night on Monday. There are more then 1,400 super-staff in the 87 tea gardens in the Hills of Darjeeling. "The 33% hike will be applicable for three years," said Sandeep Mukherjee, principal adviser to the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA), an umbrella organization of the 87 Darjeeling Tea gardens.

Trade union leaders expressed satisfaction over the hike. "We are happy that our demand was met," said Suraj Subba, secretary of DTDPLU.

At present, the Darjeeling Tea plantation technical workers get something between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,500 according to their seniority and grade. The salary of medical and clerical staff range between Rs 8,000 and Rs 9,000.

Source: Times of India

 Darjeeling: The Darjeeling tea growers have appealed to the Center to extend the moratorium on the repayment of loan to replant bushes from five to ten years.

According to the Special Purpose Tea Fund (SPTF) scheme launched by the Union commerce and industry ministry in 2007, growers who want to replant their gardens can get 50 per cent of the total cost as loan. The government gives 25 per cent of the cost as subsidy.

The scheme has provision for a moratorium of five years on the payment of the loans. The planters have to start repaying the loan from the sixth year onwards in eight equal installment annually.

The planters have said the scheme has very few takers in the hills as the bushes become viable only after 10 to 12 years of replanting.

“In the plains, tea bushes become economically viable within five years. However, in the Darjeeling hills, tea is produced only after 10-12 years of replanting. We want the government to announce a moratorium of at least eight to 10 years to make the scheme attractive for the hill gardens,” Sanjay Bansal, the former chairperson of the Darjeeling Tea Association, told The Telegraph.

The growers have also objected to the mandatory clause of uprooting all bushes that are over 50 years old.

“Unlike the plains where the yield starts to decline after the bush crosses 50 years, the yield of tea bushes in Darjeeling do not decline till it reaches the age of 75 years. This aspect should also be considered by the government,” said Bansal.

The hill planters also objected to the government’s cost estimate for uprooting and replanting bushes.

According the ministry, the total expenditure incurred by the planters in undertaking the exercise would stand at around Rs 3.27 lakh per hectare.

“The calculations are wrong for the Darjeeling industry. The expenditure (of uprooting and replanting) touches the Rs 8 lakh per hectare mark and the government should also revise this figure if it (the scheme) is to be made attractive,” Bansal said.

According to Bansal, the scheme had a target area of 9,000 hectares in Darjeeling.

“Only 12 per cent of the target has been availed by the industry according to the 2010 end figures,” he said.

The DTA had organised a program here today to hand over a cheque for Rs 20 lakh to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha president Bimal Gurung for the relatives of the Bijanbari bridge collapse victims.

The association also handed over a cheque for Rs 10 lakh to the organizers of the Darjeeling Tea and Tourism Festival that will start on December 20.

Source: The Telegraph

Weather plays foul on tea

KOLKATA: Blame it on the weather gods if tea production in India does not touch the magical 1,000-million kilogram (mn kg) mark this year. Production was hit due to sparse rainfall from late September and the mercury has plunged before it usually does, affecting tea farming. Total production so far by north and south Indian gardens together is 730 mn kg. Industry experts are not very hopeful of touching the 1,000-mn kg mark. "Since September 20, Assam has experienced very dry weather. Both the north bank of the Brahmaputra as well as upper Assam received low rainfall. The tea crop output is dropping rapidly this month. So, even if it rains now, the Assam tea gardens won't have the same yield. Anyway, some rain is required now to stop the drought-like conditions in the gardens," Rossell India managing director Indian Tea Association (ITA) chairman C S Bedi told TOI. In 2010, the total tea production in India was 966.40 mn kg. "The only year when production came close to the 1,000-mn kg mark was 2007 when Indian gardens together produced 986 mn kg. But production declined in the two subsequent years," said Sujit Patra, ITA joint secretary. Till September, north Indian (including Darjeeling, Terai, Dooars and Assam) production was up by 36.7 mn kg compared to the same period last year. South Indian (Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu) production during the same period was down by 4.6 mn kg. Till September last year, north and south Indian production was to the tune of 693 mn kg. Industry members also said since October was a festive month, plucking was affected. "This year, all Hindu religious festivals were in one month and there were some other religious festivals also that hit the crop," he said. "Although, there was a surge in crop production in the initial months, but I don't think it will be able to touch the 1,000 mn kg mark as temperatures in north India have already started dropping. Therefore, October, November and December will only see reduction in production," said Aditya Khaitan, managing director, McLeod Russel. His company is the world's largest tea producer. But the Darjeeling tea production can cheer up the tea buff. It is expected that Darjeeling's yield this year will be higher by 10-15% at around 9 mn kg. . "Till October, Darjeeling's 87 gardens together produced around 7.3 mn kg this year," said Darjeeling Tea Association secretary Kaushik Basu. Last year, Darjeeling produced 8 mn kg. Table: Indian Tea Production 2010: 966 mn kg 2009: 979 mn kg 2008: 981 mn kg 2007: 986 mn kg Source: Times of India

Surplus tea availability decreases CTC tea cost

KOLKATA: Increased availability of tea in the auctions has pulled down prices of CTC black teas by 4%. The September crop was up by 36 million kg, which has just entered the market and has resulted in a drop in prices. The prices will go up only if November production is lower. The bulk of the Indian tea production is CTC teas. The CTC tea prices have slipped to Rs 127 per kg compared to Rs 132 per kg in 2010. Price of orthodox tea has slipped 17% to Rs 130 per kg from Rs 157 last year as tea exports to Iran have declined due to payment crisis. Iran is one of the largest buyers of Indian orthodox tea. Orthodox teas from Himachal Pradesh have also arrived at the auctions and are fetching similar prices of those produced in Assam and Bengal. From January to September this year, domestic tea production stood at 729 million kg against 693 million kg in the same period previous year. However, the Darjeeling tea prices have appreciated 16% due to increased demand in the domestic market. The average price of Darjeeling tea is hovering around Rs 340 per kg compared to Rs 293 per kg. "The price hike is driven by consumer demand. Indian consumers are gradually getting used to Darjeeling tea. The increased purchasing power has also contributed to this offtake," said Ashok Lohia, chairman of Chamong Tee (one of the biggest Darjeeling Tea producers). The regional packeteers from Punjab and western India are buying heavily at the auctions. Retailers in West Bengal are also buying teas in good volumes as the prices have dipped. However, the prices have improved for the small tea growers. Between October 8 and November 10, small growers were forced to sell green leaf to bought leaf factories at Rs 2-3 per kg due to a bumper crop. "For the last month, green leaves in Bengal and Assam have been selling at Rs 2-3 per kg on an average when the production cost was more than Rs 10," said BG Chakraborty, president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association (CISTA). Source: Times of India

The Bengal tea industry and workers' unions on Friday fixed the minimum wage for Dooars and Terai tea garden workers across the state to Rs 85 a day followed by an annual hike of Rs 5 for the next two years. The wage hike will come into retrospective effect from April 1 of this fiscal.

According to the three-year agreement, the daily wage of the workers will be Rs 85 for the current year, Rs 90 for 2012-2013 and Rs 95 for the financial year ending on March 31, 2014.

Earlier, the daily wage in the plains tea gardens with 2.5 lakh workers had been Rs 67.

Ministers Purnendu Bose (labour), Gautam Deb (north Bengal development) and Partha Chatterjee (industries) were present at the meeting, where it was announced that the tea problem stood solved “as of now”.

“It’s not hundred per cent of what we had set out to achieve. But this is a win-win situation for all stakeholders. We are trying to do everything we can for the revival and rejuvenation of the tea industry,” said Chatterjee after the agreement was signed at Writers’ Buildings between the government, five planters’ associations and 35 labor unions.

“We had been negotiating with the garden owners and the labor unions for months to try and reach a consensus on the wage. Demands were as high as Rs 165 a day. But we had to find a common ground. The arrears, for the period between April 1 and October 31 this year, will be paid in two installments before Christmas and Holi,” said Bose. The new wages will be paid at the end of this week. The variable dearness allowance, the calculation of which is based on the All India Consumer Price Index and to which the workers are entitled to under the agreement, will be settled within the next six months.

“It took months to resolve the issue but our initiative helped reach a wage rate, which is the highest ever in the industry so far. Workers used to get a daily wage of Rs 67 which has been revised to Rs 85, meaning a hike of Rs 18. In the agreements facilitated by the previous government, the hike had never been so high,” north Bengal development minister Deb.

In April, the labor wing of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had managed to strike a wage deal of Rs 90 a day, a hike of Rs 23, for workers of the Darjeeling tea industry.

Since then, the plains workers had been clamoring for a similar wage hike.

The state government has also decided to ask the Center to provide food-grain and amenities like drinking water, sanitation and medical facilities to the tea laborers. The fringe benefits are now provided by the managements of the respective gardens.

“We will talk to the Center to explore the possibilities of bringing these amenities under the ambit of the National Rural Health Mission,” said Bose.

The government, the owners and the labor unions also agreed in writing to ensure a smooth day-to-day running of the tea estates.

“We will strive to revive the tea industry by ensuring export growth, better revenue collection and consumer satisfaction. We are very serious about it. We will also speak to the Center and set up a tea directorate for the overall supervision of the industry,” said Chatterjee. “This agreement is just a stepping stone. A lot of responsibilities lie ahead for us,” he added.

The industries minister said the government would also try to revive the five state-owned tea estates which had been running on losses for years.

“We are happy with today’s agreement,” said Sukra Munda, the chairperson of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad backed-Progressive Tea Workers’ Union.

“The issue had been pending for sometime to be resolved. Now it has been resolved,” said Harihar Acharya, the Terai committee president of the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, which is affiliated to the Morcha.

The planters, too, breathed a sigh of relief. “We have proved our sincerity about arriving at a settlement. But because of the revision in the wages, there will be a steep rise in production costs. The state government has promised to help us,” said Sanjoy Bagchi, the assistant secretary of the Dooars Branch of the Indian Tea Association.

Darjeeling, Oct. 22: A bridge packed with a festival crowd caved in near Darjeeling town this evening, killing at least 27 people when the wooden walkway tumbled 150ft into a swift-flowing river.

Police sources said nearly 80 people were injured in the 7pm collapse in Bijanbari, about 40km from Darjeeling town.

Most of those on the bridge — suspended by steel cables over the Little Rangit — were Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters who had gathered for a cultural program organized by the outfit as part of its five-day festival in the hills. Today was the festival’s last day.

Darjeeling district magistrate Saumitra Mohan said at least 27 people were killed in the collapse. “We have reports that some of the casualties were taken away by villagers from the incident site.”

Mohan, who reached the spot, added that efforts were on to send the injured to the Darjeeling district hospital.

Police sources said the darkness was hampering rescue and efforts were on to set up floodlights. “There is considerable water in the swift-flowing river and we fear that some of the victims could have been swept away by the current. The terrain is also very difficult,” said a senior police officer on the spot.

Sources in the district administration said the bridge, about 80ft long and 6ft wide, was built by the Darjeeling zilla parishad in 1972.

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said party volunteers were helping the police to rescue the injured.

“Our party president, Bimal Gurung, and I had visited Bijanbari this morning…. In the evening there was a large crowd, mostly local residents and those from nearby Darjeeling Tea plantations of Chunthung, Marybong and Linga, who had gathered to witness the cultural programs and the mela on the other side of the bridge,” Giri said.

In Calcutta, chief minister Mamata Banerjee told reporters she had asked north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb and Siliguri MLA Rudranath Bhattacharya to rush to Darjeeling.

Mamata, who is expected to leave for Darjeeling tomorrow, said the Bengal government would do all it could to stand by those affected “during this tragic hour” and bear all medical expenses.

Survivor Nirmal Chhetri, a driver, recalled the horror from his bed in Darjeeling district hospital. “There was a loud sound and I saw the bridge collapsing. I fell and cannot remember what happened after that.”

Source: Telegraph

Last week at Sale No. 41, the total offerings (packages) at the three North Indian tea auction centres at Kolkata, Guwahati and Siliguri were 4,27,331 as compared to 1,52,290 in the corresponding sale of the previous year when No Sale was reported at Guwahati and Siliguri, according to J Thomas & Company Pvt Ltd, tea auctioneers.

At Kolkata, the total offerings were 1,46,843 (1,52,290) comprising CTC/Dust 1,03,190 (1,05,864), Orthodox 37,931( 40,886) and Darjeeling Tea 5,722 (5,540).

The corresponding offerings at Guwahati were 1,57,541 (No Sale) and at Siliguri 1,22,947 (No Sale).

Selected clean and better liquoring Assam CTC teas were firm to dearer while the remainder were irregularly lower following quality. Well-made Dooars sold readily at firm rates while the remainder tended irregularly easier. Tata Global was active. There was good support from Hindustan Unilever. Western India dealers were active for the liquoring sorts. There were fair enquiries from North India as well as local sections. Exporters operated on the bolder brokens and fannings.

Orthodox whole leaf grades sold at easier rates. Brokens and fannings followed a similar trend. Continental buyers operated selectively on the tippy sorts.

Darjeeling whole leaf and broken grades sold around last levels while fannings were irregularly lower. There was useful enquiry from traditional exporters. Hindustan Unilever was active with fair support from Tata Global. Local dealers operated for the brokens and fannings.    

Source: Business Line

Gujarat based tea brand trying to retail nation wide

Delhi woke up and smelt the tea this morning. Gujarat-based tea brand Wagh Bakri, which is brewing a retail plan as well as nursing national ambitions, opened its first tea lounge in the Capital. It served an array of handpicked varieties of Darjeeling Tea, the Nilgiris, Sri Lanka and Kenya at the outlet.

According to Mr Parag Desai, Executive Director (Sales and Marketing), Wagh Bakri, many more such lounges are on the anvil, though they plan to take it slow and steady. The company already has a tea lounge in Vile Parle, Mumbai.

The Rs 500-crore Wagh Bakri brand, which till some time ago was mainly a regional brand serving Gujarat and Rajasthan, has been on a furious expansion spree of late. With sales volumes of 25 million kg of tea, it has now spread to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Hyderabad and Goa.

Last year, it entered the Delhi-NCR market, and Mr Desai says plans are to now move further north. According to Mr Desai, Wagh Bakri with 7-8 per cent market share of the branded tea business, is now at the third spot behind HUL and Tata Tea.

“Tea is a very fragmented business. It's like our political parties — there are strong regional players, who command fierce loyalty in their States. Some regional parties/brands go to the national stage,” says Mr Desai, fourth generation of the Wagh Bakri clan that at one time were tea growers in South Africa.
Marketing budget

The young, US-educated Desai is the one pushing the hitherto low-profile brand into the limelight, with a Rs 40-crore marketing budget, which includes a television commercial and extensive below-the-line promotions.

Another Rs 40 crore has been invested in setting up a new manufacturing facility, forty minutes away from Ahmedabad. This will have the capacity to blend and process 10 million kg of tea to add to the existing 25 million kg at three other existing facilities and will be operational in the next six months, said Mr Desai.

The expansion will be wholly from internal accruals, says Mr Desai, pointing out that the company is debt-free, cash-rich and growing annually at 10-15 per cent.

But, why has the tea lounge been opened in the North Delhi suburb of Pitampura and not a more central location? “We did our research and found that North Delhi is fast becoming an epicentre of people eating out and shopping. Brands like Zara are opening here,” says Mr Desai.

Source: Business Line

Darjeeling's tryst with heritage rail history

The queen of the hills had a tryst with history through a Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) exhibition.
The exhibition depicted the immense contribution of the DHR in the growth of the Darjeeling district. American author and humorist Mark Twain during his visit to Darjeeling in February 1896 had taken the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways' Express Trolly service.  The 61-year-old Twain had described the journey as the best day of his life.

The Trolly service flagged off on April 1, 1927, using gravity as the power glided down from 7407 to 533 feet.  It was projected as a novel experience for holidaymakers. "No motor risks; no smoke; no dust. Once enjoyed, never forgotten," stated the Billboards.

Organized by the friends' of the DHR along with the Inner Wheel Club of Darjeeling, the exhibition portrayed many such long forgotten facts.  In 1866 there were 39 established Darjeeling Tea gardens. With the arrival of East Bengal railways at Siliguri in 1878 followed by the DHR in 1881, the tea industry had a tremendous boost with easy railway access to the auction houses in Kolkata.

In 1906 came the first bogie coaches. Earlier there were carriages with four wheels.  For many years the DHR used to transport both Mountaineers and equipment for the Everest expeditions which started from Darjeeling.

Mails were dispatched in specially constructed coaches. Carriages with red band of colour with letterboxes on the sides for posting letters were a common site. In early 1980s mail was shifted to road transport.

However all this is set to be lost in time.  "The condition of the DHR is very disheartening.  A lot of damage has been caused by natural disasters including frequent landslips and even the recent earthquake. However the DHR service is deteriorating by the day. The Railways is running it like a railway and not looking after the heritage part " alleged Marilyn Metz of the Friends' of the DHR.

The DHR was inscribed as a World heritage site by the UNESCO in 1999 in recognition of the significant role played by the DHR in the development of the Darjeeling district.

"All world heritage sites have a conservation management plan. The Railways have failed to come up with any such plan. Thus there is no guideline for repairs, renovation and constructions.  In order to save money the stone bricks and timber is being replaced by concrete resulting in the loss of the heritage aspect" added Peter Tiller also from the Friends' of the DHR. Recently two heritage water towers were pulled down at Tung station replaced by regular water pipes.  "The DHR is 130 years old. Darjeeling and the hill communities grew with the DHR. The DHR belongs to the people.  We hope that this exhibition by telling a little of the story of the Railways, will inspire the public to nurture and support the DHR over the coming years" stated Tiller.

The exhibition which was flagged off on Friday at the Rink Mall in Darjeeling will continue till the October 21. Rare photographs, reprints of sketches, placards are on display.

"It is truly an eye opener. DHR enthusiasts all the way from London have taken so much of pain to portray the story of this World Heritage, and its transformation through the ages. We the residents of Darjeeling have failed to nurture our won treasure" stated Mahesh Chettri, a resident.

In the year 1879 work first started on the DHR, then called the Darjeeling Steam Tramways. The stretch from Siliguri to Kurseong was opened on August 23 1880. The Siliguri to Darjeeling track was inaugurated on July 4 1881.

 The name of the rail company was then changed to Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Company. At present it does a 88 km stretch from Darjeeling to New Jalpaiguri. It starts at 398 feet at NJP in the plains and climbs up to 7407 feet at the highest point at Ghoom.

Source: Hindustan Times

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad have lined up a series of demands to be placed before the chief minister when she arrives in north Bengal tomorrow. Mamata Banerjee, who will spend the first two days of her tour in the hills, will formally launch the post-quake restoration work and lay the foundation of a car park in Darjeeling before she inaugurates the cultural fest a day before it commences. In the plains, sources said, Mamata might lay the foundation of a school for tribal students in Kalchini, distribute post-Madhyamik scholarships and caste certificates while meeting Parishad leaders, who are wary of the Morcha and apprehensive about the Trinamul chief’s first visit to the Dooars as chief minister. The tribal leaders were always against the Morcha’s statehood agitation. Since the signing of the agreement to set up the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, a government-appointed committee has been examining the Morcha demand to bring the Gorkha-dominated areas of the Dooars and the Terai under the new hill authority. The Parishad is vehemently against the formation of the committee. “A delegation led by our party chief Bimal Gurung will meet the chief minister at 2pm tomorrow. In course of the meeting, we will hand over a detailed report of the damage caused to the Darjeeling hills by the earthquake,” said Binay Tamang, the assistant secretary of the Morcha. “On October 11, when she opens the cultural fest at Chowrastha, we will show her video clips of areas affected by the quake —places she had missed during her trip to the hills after the tremor.” Tamang said the Morcha would also discuss with Mamata projects which “need to be immediately implemented” in the hills. Party sources said the people of Darjeeling and its adjoining areas had been asked to join the opening ceremony of the cultural fest in their traditional attires. The tourist fest, to showcase the majestic world the Darjeeling Himalayas, will continue till October 30. The Morcha will impress upon Mamata to ask for financial assistance from the Centre for the rehabilitation of quake victims in the hills on the lines of the one provided to Sikkim, party insiders said. Sources in Darjeeling district administration said the chief minister would visit Jorepokhri, on the fringes of Darjeeling town, to formally launch the restoration work. “She would then lay the foundations of a multi-storied car parking facility on Lebong Cart Road and the beautification of Chowrastha. Then she will participate in the cultural fest at the same venue,” a senior officer said. The chief minister, who is expected in the plains by Wednesday, will meet a delegation of Parishad leaders in the Dooars that day. “We will surely meet the chief minister but the time and venue are yet to be finalized. The committee formed to look into the Morcha's territory demand will top our discussions. We have been opposing this panel tooth and nail,” said Tezkumar Toppo, the state general secretary of the Parishad. “We will try to convince her that the formation of such a panel is irrelevant as almost everybody in the Dooars and Terai is against any move that will make them part of the GTA. The jurisdiction of the GTA should be confined to the three hill sub-divisions.” The Parishad will also ask the chief minister to confer land rights to tea workers, set up a Hindi medium college, a training institute for Hindi medium school teachers and a bridge over the Teesta, parallel to the Coronation Bridge but further downstream. The proposed bridge near Sevoke Bazar is expected to help the people of the Dooars save considerable time and fuel when they go to Sikkim. The Jalpaiguri district administration said it was not yet aware of Mamata’s complete itinerary. “ So far, we can say that she will attend two government programs in Malbazar — and give away post-metric scholarships to tribal students and caste certificates to prospective beneficiaries. Further itineraries and venues are yet to be finalized,” said district magistrate Smaraki Mahapatra. Sources in the administration, however, said the chief minister might visit Kalchini to lay the foundation of Raghunath Murmu Memorial School for tribal children. “She is also scheduled to hold an administrative meeting before she leaves for Calcutta. These are, however, yet to be finalized,” Mahapatra said. Source: The Telegraph

Carritt Moran & Co, the second-largest and one of India’s oldest tea auctioneers, is being wound up, bringing to an end a legacy of 134 years. And McLeod Russel India Ltd, the largest tea plantation company and one of Carritt Morgan’s creditors, is set to get control of one of its prized assets, a property having an office-cum-guest house at Coonoor in Tamil Nadu. “Carritt Moran owed money to us against which its assets in Coonoor were mortgaged. We recently got a favourable verdict from the Calcutta High Court,” said Aditya Khaitan, managing director of McLeod Russel. Carritt Moran, along with J Thomas & Co has been controlling the tea-auction industry out of Kolkata — auctioning bulk tea by sourcing from tea plantation companies like McLeod Russel and Jayshree Tea and selling them to marketers like Tata Tea, Hindustan Unilever, Wagh Bakri and also to exporters across the world. Only a fraction of country’s tea produce, mostly premium-grade varieties of Darjeeling Tea, is traded outside the auctioning system and exported directly. It’s not any crisis in the tea industry that has brought down Carrittt Moran, set up in 1877 by two Englishmen, Thomas and Alfred Caritt to deal in tea, coffee and other commodities. In recent times, beyond its auctioning services, Carritt Moran has been involved in financing activities, lending short-term funds to tea producers. Cash flows suddenly suffered when a few of its creditors defaulted, forcing Carritt Moran, in turn, to default on its dues to the planters from whom it sourced teas, triggering panic in the tea trade sector. That was in 2009. Some of the creditors then filed a winding up case in the Calcutta High Court in a bid to recover their dues by selling off the company’s assets. The liquidation of the auctioneer was ordered and an official liquidator appointed to oversee the process. Carritt Moran also owns offices in Guwahati, Siliguri, Cochin, Coimbatore and Bangalore. It had earlier sold off its Kolkata head office to another city-based tea company. With the Calcutta High Court ordering liquidation of all assets of Carritt Moran, McLeod Russel approached the court and argued that since it has a charge against the Coonoor property, it should be set aside, said McLeod Russel chief finance officer, Kamal Baheti. “Carritt Moran owed us around Rs 4.5 crore and we had filed the charge long before the liquidation proceedings started. The court has ordered last week that we have precedence in terms of settlement of creditors.” The incident in 2009 forced Tea Board to adopt a cash-and-carry financing model and better risk management systems suggested by consultancy firm AF Ferguson & Co. Source: DNA India

Dolly's Tea selling Darjeeling Tea and Assams

No Indian city knows its cup of tea better than Calcutta. Understandable, given its proximity to Darjeeling, and its tea company culture. Take, for example, our tea-lover friend Gautam, who is extremely particular about his teas: in the afternoons he obviously has a fragrant Darjeeling (without milk and sugar, of course), but for a morning pick-me-up he prefers a sinewy Assam orthodox tea (with milk and sugar). And for monsoon days he recommends a robust Assam CTC. By way of explanation, he likens Darjeeling teas to Scotch, Assam orthodox teas to vodkas and CTC teas to rums. Dolly’s is for aficionados like him. It sells a selection of teas by the kilo, from a very basic Darjeeling Tea at Rs 450 per kg to Makaibari Silver Tips at Rs 12,000. But what’s interesting is that it’s one of those rare places that also serves these teas by the cup, allowing you to play the tea-taster and experiment with different varieties before you buy. It’s a tiny joint, with walls panelled with old tea chests, which squeezes in just about a dozen people. In the course of a leisurely tasting session, we tried a variety of Darjeelings: the sparkling Darjeeling Autumn, the smoky Makaibari Oolong, the wonderfully mellow Muscatel and the perhaps over-hyped Makaibari Silver Tips (it’s considered a sin to add milk and sugar to a Darjeeling, by the way). They also serve about thirty different types of iced tea, from orange-mint to watermelon. But those are just kid-stuff. Source: Outlook India

Tea workers fear lean season hindrance to tea wage negotiation

 Trade unions fear that if tea wages for Dooars workers are not revised before Diwali, planters may delay the negotiation and extend it to next year citing the three-month lean season starting from November.

Around 2.5 lakh tea workers are yet to get the new scale to be revised from the existing Rs 67 per day.

The trade unions had been insisting on Rs 90 a day like the hill workers, a proposal that has been shot down by planters who have argued that Darjeeling Tea is sold at a much higher price than CTC, which is grown in the Dooars. So, the salary of hill workers could not be compared with those in the plains.

“We had been waiting eagerly for Durga Puja to end and want the wages to be finalised at the earliest. It would be best if it is settled before Diwali, which is around 20 days away,” said Aloke Chakraborty, the Darjeeling district president of Intuc, the trade union of the Congress.

“If no decision is reached till Diwali and the current month ends, it will be difficult for us to negotiate as the lean season will commence from November. Planters, who will not earn during these months because of halt in production, may delay the negotiation till the next season starting in March 2012,” said Chakraborty.

The current wages are paid on the basis of a three-year tripartite agreement signed in 2008.

It expired on March 31 this year and since then there had been seven rounds of unsuccessful tripartite talks. The last was held on the first week of September.

“During the course of the negotiation, we brought down our demands considerably but the planters have refused to relent even then,” said Sukra Munda, the chairperson of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad-backed Progressive Tea Workers’ Union

“Given the trend of talks, we doubt whether any agreement will be signed at all in the coming lean season. It is best to bargain and convince planters in the next 15-20 days to agree to a revised scale, that is, before Diwali and immediately after Puja.”

The state labour department has called another round of tripartite talks on October 13.

“We are now hoping that the talks succeed as already six months of the current fiscal has passed. Workers want an early solution, as they are aware that their counterparts in the Darjeeling hills are earning Rs 90 a day. They will surely get arrears as the new agreement will be effective from April 1, 2011 but it is a test of patience,” said Samir Roy, convener of the Defence Committee for Plantation Workers Rights, an apex body of tea trade unions.

Planters, however, said the gardens had suffered considerably in the September 18 earthquake.

“Most of the gardens in the Terai and the Dooars have suffered damage and some have incurred losses worth crores,” said Prabir Bhattacharjee, the secretary of the Dooars Branch of the Indian Tea Association. “Regarding settlement of wages, we were never reluctant to negotiate. We had already submitted detailed information to the state government about the expenses incurred to run a tea estate.”

“It is not the question of lean season but the affordability of the tea companies that has to be kept in mind. The trade unions should rationalise their demands. We too had proposed a revised wage and do not want to drag on the issue. We are hopeful of a positive outcome at the meeting called by the state labour department next week,” he added.

Source: The Telegraph

Tea prices higher as domestic market increases

Despite a higher crop and lower exports this year, domestic tea prices have continued to hold firm. One of the prime reasons for firm price trends was a spurt in domestic demand, Mr Peter Mathias, Chairman of the UPASI Tea Committee said.

The poorer global tea production, catalyzed by adverse weather patterns, has not helped prop up domestic prices as exports continue to reign low. Latest reports indicate that Kenyan crop continues to reign lower by 31.3 million kg, Indonesia by 8.5 million kg, Uganda by 5.3 million kg and South India by 4.3 million kg.

In contrast, North India was one of the few regions which registered an increase in tea production during the current year. While South India recorded a shortfall in tea production, North India recorded a growth of 38 million kg over last year. This has enabled the country's production to grow by 33.7 million kg during January-August.

South Indian tea production till September is also likely to be lower since it was hampered by consistent rains and lower sunshine days, Mr N. Sanjith, Head of Commodities of the United Planters Association of Southern India (UPASI), said. Heavy rains in the first three weeks of last month hampered plucking operations.

Although the quantum of exports has fallen, the value realization has been looking up. During January-August, tea exports fell by 14.9 million kg, of which North India contributed 11.8 million kg even as South Indian exports fell by 3.1 million kg.

Tea export prices have recovered the most. Average tea export prices were up by Rs 14.19 a kg over last year's Rs 144.77 a kg. The prime reason for lower exports was disturbances in some of India's principal export destinations. Lower exports to Pakistan and Iran during the first half of the year also contributed to the fall. However, sources in UPASI said the association expected the export momentum to pick up in the coming months.

In the domestic market, average price realisation of South Indian tea till the middle of September this year was higher by Rs 2.53 a kg over last year's Rs 69.27 a kg. Orthodox teas continued to fetch a handsome premium over CTC grades at South Indian auctions.

Source: Business line

Trade unions affiliated to the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad have threatened to impose an indefinite embargo on the dispatch of tea from gardens in the Dooars and the Terai if the wages of the tea workers of the region are not revised in the meeting which is scheduled to be held on October 13.

A similar tea embargo was levied on Darjeeling tea gardens by the GJMM in the Darjeeling hills in regard to hike in tea laborer wages. This finally got sorted out by an increase of Rs. 23.00 which touched Rs. 90 when the demand was for Rs. 120-154.

Significantly, the trade unions of the tea workers have decided to attend the tripartite meeting.

Birsha Tirkey, president of ABAVP, said, “In last three months, we have attended more than five tripartite meetings, but the issue is yet to be resolved. The October 13 meeting will be the last meeting we will be attending. If the management does not agree to our demands, we will stall the dispatch and there will be indefinite strike in the tea gardens in the Terai and the Dooars region.”

There are 204 tea gardens in the Terai and Dooars region. Workers of these tea gardens spearheaded the agitation to demand higher daily wage. The garden workers in the plains are currently paid Rs 67 a day according to an agreement reached between planters and trade unions three years ago. The duration of the deal ended on March 31 and all negotiations held so far to fix a new wage have failed to reach a consensus. On the other hand, the laborers in the Darjeeling Tea gardens get Rs 90 a day.

“We will hold meetings in front of the gates of each tea garden in the Terai and the Dooars after the Pujas demanding immediate fixing of wages,” said the ABAVP leader. “We will not agree for less than Rs 91 per day deal and we want our payment on a retrospective basis since April,” said Tirkey.

The planters in the plains had offered a hike of Rs 8 every year so that the wage would reach Rs 91 in 2013 from the current Rs 67. But the unions rejected the offer outright and wanted the garden owners to come forward with fresh proposals. The offers were made at tripartite meetings convened by the state labour department. The garden owners said halt in the dispatch of tea and slow work would cripple the industry.

The meeting on October 13 will be attended by three cabinet ministers including state Commerce & Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee.

Express News Service

Indian consumers on high grade Darjeeling Tea

KOLKATA: Darjeeling tea industry is in a happy mood. After years of promotion, domestic consumers have started picking up premium Darjeeling tea. This will partly reduce the worries of Darjeeling tea producers who depend mainly on export for revenue.

Annually, Darjeeling produces nearly 10 million kg tea. Of this, 40% earns the maximum revenues as they are largely exported. The rest is rain teas that generally do not fetch good prices in the world market.

"We are seeing that Indian consumers are now ready to pay higher prices for Darjeeling Tea. This is a great achievement. We have been trying to sell Darjeeling teas in the domestic market for sometime now. We were even thinking of blending the rain teas with the premium quality and market it for domestic consumption," said Sanjay Bansal, chairman of Ambootia Group, the second-largest Darjeeling tea producer in the country.

The industry feels that this will bring down the worries of the Darjeeling planters in a big way. "The impact of recession or any other financial crisis in Europe will not hit their bottomline," said an industry analyst. However, the export market is also shining bright for Darjeeling teas this year. Harrods of Knightsbridge has picked up 20% more while Twinings has placed inquiries with the tea companies. Japanese buyers like Mitsui too have placed orders. Strong demand from overseas has pushed up the prices of Darjeeling teas at auctions by Rs 10-15 per kg.

"There is a huge demand among the buyers of organic teas. Those gardens that produce organic teas are fetching good prices in the global market. In general, prices of tea are ruling firm," Bansal added.

Last year, Darjeeling tea had suffered a fall in production due to a drought-like situation in the hills. This year, production of tea has increased due to favorable weather. "Last year, production got affected due to a drought-like situation. We lost the premium first- and second-flush teas, which fetch maximum revenues for the tea companies. Revenue-wise, this year will be better than last year," said Ashok Lohia, chairman of Chamong Tee, the largest Darjeeling tea producer in the country.

Last year, Darjeeling had produced 8 million kg tea, which was the lowest in the last decade.

Source: Economic Times

HML has introduced Surya CTC Tea

Kochi, Oct. 2: Harrisons Malayalam Ltd (HML) has introduced Surya Tea, a mark for its bulk CTC tea to be sold in the Cochin Auction Centre of the Cochin Tea Trade Association. This new mark is made from leaves produced in the Nilgiri-Wayanad region. Surya is a premium quality CTC tea produced primarily keeping the Kerala consumer in mind.

In Kerala, consumers pay a premium for dust grade CTC teas that are known for strength and colour. Surya has been launched keeping with the company's strategy of having one premium mark / brand from each of its production regions.

The company produces 15-18 million kg of tea annually from all its gardens in South India. While the HML has tea-growing areas in High Range (Munnar) and Vandiperiyaar in Idukki District, the main growing region for the company is located in the Wayanad region of North Kerala and the adjoining Nilgiri-Wayanad tea district, where the company has more than 7,500 acres of mature tea.

Source: Business Line

Tea-ing off at the national level

The Vattatharas were black coffee addicts. So were the other inhabitants of village Kongorpilly in Kerala's Ernakulam district. It was inevitable; almost everyone grew Arabica coffee beans in their backyard. That was 40 years ago when VM Thomas, head of Don Bosco Institute in Guwahati, left his village to pursue priesthood.His father, a schoolteacher, was confident that Thomas' missionary zeal would help take coffee to new frontiers. But, "I converted instead, from a hardcore coffee drinker to a regular tea drinker," said Thomas, 60.

Thomas' switchover is understandable. He has spent over 30 years in a state synonymous with tea - Assam. "But it beats me how almost everyone in my village has taken to tea," Thomas said.

For tea industry captains, barring the odd Nilgiri planter, Kongorpilly isn't likely to ring a bell. But the village's surrender to the cup that cheers - and of 593,730 other villages plus 4,378 urban areas across India (2001 census) - is one of several reasons behind their demand for granting national drink status to tea.

With over 83% households addicted to tea, the beverage is unofficially India's 'national drink'. The official tag, planters argue, would ensure better brand value and help promote it as a health drink, with or without (Darjeeling Tea, an asset of the Indian tea industry supposed to be best had without milk) milk and sugar (butter too, in some cases - in Darjeeling where the Tibetans are used to this custom). Most importantly, a national drink is an integral part of a nation's identity, self-image, history, ecology and culture, they assert.

Leading the crusade for the national drink status is the North East Tea Association (NETA), headquartered in the tea-rich Golaghat district of eastern Assam. "India should learn from Pakistan, which had ages ago identified sugarcane juice as its national drink. Or from tea-growing major China, where green tea is a national drink," said NETA chairman Bidyananda Barkakoty.

"New Delhi should at least learn from Britain that does not produce tea but considers the beverage, invariably sourced from India, a national drink. It is funny that India, despite producing the widest range of teas for 180 years, is yet to give it a special status," Barkakoty added.

Planters underscore the irony that even Assam - the state accounts for 50% of India's annual tea yield - never felt the need to declare tea as a state drink. In 2005, the state identified the rhino as its state animal and the white-winged wood duck as its state bird but went dry when it came to the drink.

"That's why we met chief minister Tarun Gogoi recently to impress upon the need to give tea the respect it deserves," said NETA member JK Singhania. "The state drink status can be the stepping stone to tea becoming India's national drink."

State industries minister Pradyut Bordoloi admitted the government faltered in not giving the due to a drink that has made Assam a household name in at least half the world. "We shall be according the state drink status to tea soon," he said.

Most of India swore by home-made alcoholic brews until the arrival of tea, 'discovered' growing wild in Assam by Robert Bruce. The Englishman took the credit for what the Singpho tribal people inhabiting adjoining areas of eastern Assam and western Arunachal Pradesh had been drinking for ages.

The first consignment of tea (350 pounds) was dispatched to Britain on 8 May 1838 and sold at India House, London, on 10 January 1839. Britons developed a taste for the beverage and voted out coffee procured from other colonies. It's time, tea growers and drinkers agree, India voted in tea as the country's national drink.

Source: Hindustan Times

Army praise over bridge construction in Darjeeling

Darjeeling: The army’s commendable job in putting together a 140-feet bridge over Lebong Cart Road which was devasted by a landslide causing a cave-in. The road connected Lebong and several Darjeeling Tea gardens. Within 24 hours of a landslide, the army has raised the pitch for handing over NH55 to the Border Roads Organisation.

The 113 engineering regiment had started constructing the bridge yesterday morning and by this afternoon district magistrate Saumitra Mohan was able to drive his car across it along with Brigader Ravi Raut, the commanding officer.

The public works department had said earlier that it would take around two to three months to permanently restore Lebong Cart Road that was damaged in a landslide on Monday. Till the PWD completes its job, the bridge will connect Darjeeling to Singamari, Tukvar, Singla, Lebong and Jorethang in Sikkim.

The swiftness with which the army completed the job prompted even the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha to demand that NH55 should be handed over to the BRO just like NH31A, which connects Siliguri with Gangtok.

NH55 links Darjeeling to Siliguri.

The BRO looks after the Siliguri-Gangtok stretch and despite numerous landslides along the route, the army always managed to clear debris in a short span of time, the Morcha said.

Trilok Dewan, the Morcha’s MLA from Darjeeling, said: “NH55 is in a mess and it is clear that the National Highways Authority is finding it difficult to maintain the road which is very important for Darjeeling. This road must be handed over to the BRO which is much more efficient.”

National Highway 55 or Hill Cart Road has been closed for most of the time since June 2010 and with a fresh landslide on Thursday near Tindharia, after which a stretch of the road caved in, there is little chance of the road opening this year.

“Alternative routes like Pankhabari, Rohini, Mungpoo or Mirik had not been constructed to handle heavy vehicles and since the national highway is closed, these roads are in a terrible condition because heavy vehicles are forced to ply on these routes,” said Dewan.

The Morcha leader added that he had raised the issue of handing over NH55 to the BRO with Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan during his recent visit to the hill town.

“I have requested him to look into the matter,” said Dewan, who is also a member of the board of administrators of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

He added that DGHC had also sent a Rs 194 crore proposal to the state to construct an alternative highway to NH55 through Bungkulung in Mirik.

“I had also suggested that the construction and repair of the alternative road should be taken up by the BRO. I hope Darjeeling MP Jaswant Singh takes up the matter with the appropriate authorities in Delhi,” said Dewan.

The MLA said he would ask the NH-IX division to attend the DGHC board meeting on October 15.

“We want to know in detail about the state of the highway and how long it would take to restore the patch if they start work immediately,” said Dewan.

Source: The Telegraph

DARJEELING: The army stepped in on Tuesday to build a metal bridge at the landslide-hit area to help resume traffic movement. Sunday's landslide had devoured a 30-metre stretch of the Lebong Cart Road. Vehicular movement from the main town to the northern parts had to be diverted to the upper stretches where the road is narrow and small.

The 113 Engineer Regiment of the Indian army at Lebong surveyed the landslide site near Sharma Garage just above the Happy Valley tea estate. "Work to build the bridge would begin from Wednesday and we hope to resume vehicular movement within three days," said Brigadier R S Rawat, of the Dogra Regiment. The bridge on completion will be christened 'Mayaloo 113' after the regiment's number.

The PWD will continue with the repair of the road work. "We were already in the process of restoring the road that was damaged prior to the earthquake and the landslide. Now we will concentrate in strengthening the road from the bottom," said a senior PWD official.

The Dogra Regiment is located at Lebong about four kilometers from the landslide area.

The Lebong Cart Road connects the town with Singamari, where Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's (GJM) main office and reputed boarding schools and colleges are located. It also leads to Sikkim via Jorethang. Several Darjeeling Tea plantations are also located beyond the landslide site.

Trilok Dewan, the Darjeeling MLA visited the landslide site with the army and district administration officials. "It is encouraging to see the army at the fore. I request the district administration to ensure that the army is not impeded while they are at work to restore traffic movement," said Dewan.

Bengal Governor M.K.Narayanan arrived in Darjeeling on Tuesday and visited the landslide area in the afternoon. He will be meeting officials of the district administration later in the evening to take stock of the situation in the Hills post the earthquake and landslide.

Source: Times of India

Darjeeling: Just when the life of people in the Hills was are limping back to normalcy after the 6.8 magnitude earthquake shook the entire eastern India, a massive landslide devoured a 30-metre stretch of Lebong Cart Road late Sunday night, cutting off connectivity with the northern parts of Darjeeling. However, no casualties have been reported in the incident.

Lebong Cart Road connects the town with places like Singamari and some Darjeeling Tea gardens such as Phoobsering, Barnesbeck, Singla, Ging and also the army cantonment at Lebong. All vehicular movement has now been diverted from the Birch Hill Road.

"Incessant rain in the past 24 hours has damaged a vast stretch of Lebong Cart Road. We have diverted all traffic flow to the north side of the town from the upper stretches. It will take about a month to repair the road," said Darjeeling DM Soumitra Mohan.

No property has been damagedin the incident that occurred. However, according to civil defense officials, more rain could prove to be dangerous. "The September 18 earthquake in Sikkim has also affected the Hills. Cracks have appeared on several roads that need to be plastered to avoid water seepage," warned Gopal Rai, a senior government official. Incidentally, the road was already damaged and repair work had started prior to the earthquake and rainfall.

Several schools in the northern half of the town asked students to return home because of persistent rainfall. One school declared Puja holiday before schedule.

"We did not want to take any chance. So we declared the Puja holiday from today itself. The situation is quite precarious in the Hills with the recent earthquake and now this incessant rainfall," said Father Kinley, rector of St Joseph's School at Singamari.

Vacation at the school was supposed to start from Friday.

With the road cut off, the residents of Singamari may face difficulties in getting their drinking water, which is supplied by tankers.

"The Birch Hill Road is too narrow and a one-way lane. Traffic system will be in disarray from now with heavy vehicles, including that of the army and water supply,

plying on this road. Besides, it will be difficult to travel more than 2 km on foot everyday to reach town for work," said Mohan Tamang, a resident of Singamari.

Source: Times of India

Darjeeling, Sept. 25: The Darjeeling administration will organise a tourist festival here in December, keeping with the spirit of the times when the government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha have settled for an autonomous set-up to end the three-year-long agitation in the hills.

The district administration, which will fund the 16-day festival, will be helped by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the DGHC, a district official said.

Raju Pradhan, the assistant secretary of the Morcha, has been made the working president of the festival committee.

“The Darjeeling Tea and tourism festival will start from December 20 and will go on till January 5, 2012. We are yet to decide on the name of the fest,” said Pradhan, who was selected the working president at the first meeting of the committee held in Darjeeling yesterday.

“Besides cultural shows, we will also hold indoor and outdoor games, adventure sports, cross-country runs, mountain biking, body building competition, felicitation of celebrities, and various exhibitions,” said Pradhan. “The festival will be held in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Mirik simultaneously.”

The administration had last organized such a fest — Darjeeling Tea Tourism — in 2000.

Later, for three consecutive years starting 2004, the citizens of Darjeeling had organised a highly successful festival across the hills, which they called the Darjeeling Carnival.

Jazz artiste Louis Banks, among others, had participated in the carnival. But it was stopped from 2007 on when the statehood agitation was renewed and tourism took a beating because of bandhs and highway blockades.

This time, the October season was promising but the September 18 earthquake, which devastated Sikkim, has had a ripple effect on Darjeeling. This is largely because tourists usually come on a Darjeeling-Sikkim package trip.

Pradip Tamang, the secretary of the Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents, said: “The October season looked very good this year but following the earthquake in Sikkim, I think we will lose about 20 per cent of the bookings. Many tour operators are trying to sell the Darjeeling-Dooars or Darjeeling-Kalimpong circuit but North Sikkim, which has been cut off this time, had always been a huge attraction,” said Tamang.

Around 3.5 lakh domestic tourists visit the Darjeeling hills annually. Half of this number usually come during the peak October-November season. Before the Sikkim earthquake, the hotels in Darjeeling were completely full for about the first 20 days of the season.

The administration is now banking on the festival to extend the season.

“Winter tourism is not much of a hit in Darjeeling. We now hope that the tourism festival will help extend the season right up to January,” said a district official.

The Darjeeling Carnival, too, used to be held in December with the aim of extending the season.

While many travel agents have welcomed the initiative, Tamang felt the administration should also look at improving the infrastructure.

“Only the tourism festival will not help if the infrastructure is bad. The administration must prioritise issues like upgrading roads across the hills,” said Tamang.

Source: The Telegraph

Time to tea off

There is a different tea for each time of the day. Aastha Khurana tells you more

Indians are fond of having tea. They mix and blend different types to suit their tastebuds. But what many people are unaware of is that there is a particular variety of tea for each part of the day.

A cup of ‘green tea’ is a healthy way to start your day . “Green tea kills oxidants in body and helps weight loss. It helps detoxification of skin. Besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissues. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots”, says Dr Ritika Samaddar, HOD, nutritional therapy, Max Healthcare. She, however, adds that green tea should be avoided after six in the evening as it can lead to insomnia.

Darjeeling Tea (black) is the best mid-morning tea. Black tea tastes the best when brewed in a kettle. “Black tea blends with every flavour. One should have it with fresh herbs like tulsi and rosemary in the morning. During evening, cinnamon and cardamom are well suited. It is also good for students during exams as it helps them stay awake,” says Radhika Batra Shah, a noted tea connoisseur and tea consultant with Godrej Nature’s Basket.

“Black tea can help prevent heart attacks, and stomach, prostate and breast cancer. The chemicals found in black tea slow down cancer growth”, says Dr Samaddar.

After a heavy lunch, flower teas like chamomile, jasmine and lavender work wonders. “Flower teas blend beautifully with black tea for a stronger version,” Radhika adds. Chamomile tea has an aromatic and fruity flavour and is known for being effective against toothaches and insomnia. It helps settle indigestion and reduces skin irritations. Jasmine tea can be taken at any time of the day and goes well with food. It aids digestion, has antibacterial properties, helps prevent heart disease and has anti-ageing component.

Regular use of floral tea can make a significant contribution. Apart from having medicinal benefits, floral tea also gives a sense of calm and peace.

Oolong tea is the best accompaniment to meals. “It helps people with heart-related issues. It can promote longevity by stimulating bodily functions and strengthening the immune system. It promotes the development of healthier and stronger bones, protecting people from osteoporosis,” tells Radhika. Oolong is popular with men as it tastes like having a cigar.

White tea aka bedtime tea is the perfect choice to end your day. “White tea thins the blood and improves artery function. It helps lower blood pressure and reduces blood sugar. It reduces stress and increases energy. It is good for people who are on a diet as it keeps them away from sweets. It increases metabolism by encouraging the body to burn more fat,” says Radhika.

Source: The Pioneer

Rescuing poor Darjeeling tea garden girls from traffickers’ traps

Rangu Souriya is the recipient of the Godfrey National Phillips Bravery Award, 2011

Rangu Souriya grew up in Darjeeling. Among her several childhood memories, she remembers clearly how young girls in and around Darjeeling used to go missing. Many of them who lived in the Darjeeling tea gardens and also in the villages were lured by jobs and were trafficked, never to return.

Among her recent memories, she vividly recollects how in 2006, for the first time she rescued a 13-year-old girl from Delhi, where she was working as a domestic help. Souriya says the girl, who was taken there on the pretext of job and had harrowing experience there.

“On the promise of a better lifestyle, she was hauled up in a house in New Delhi as bonded labour and was treated like an animal,” she says.

Souriya, now 32, runs an organisation called ‘Kanchanjunga Uddhar Kendra’, located in Silliguri. She helps in the rescue of girls from the hills, particularly of Sikkim, North Bengal and Nepal, who have been trafficked to various cities in India and even abroad.

“It is because of the prevailing poverty and poor living conditions in tea gardens, that a lot of traffickers are able to lure women and girls by assuring them jobs. They either sell those girls as bonded labour to other states or push them in flesh trade in Arab countries,” says Souriya.

The girls from North Bengal, Nepal and Sikkim are particularly trafficked to Mumbai, Delhi and Pune. Souriya says recently many girls are taken to Arab countries from where it becomes very difficult to bring them back. Souriya with the help of NGOs in Saudi Arabia was able to bring back five trafficked teenage girls back to India in February 2011.

However, she points out that there are still many trapped there. Souriya was honoured with Godfrey National Phillips Bravery award 2011 under the category of ‘Special Social Bravery Award’ for her contribution to changing lives of so many girls.

She still rues the fact that she is able to bring back only 12 women from the clutches of traffickers operating in Gulf countries.

It was during her college days that Souriya made up her mind that she will do something for the girls and now she says that it givers her immense pleasure and a great feeling when she sees the missing girls unite with their families.

With the help of a few like-minded people, she is trying to set up a home for the rescued girls. She says the girls who are unable to get back to their parents should be provided some kind of training so that they are able to sustain themselves.

“Since 2004, We have helped rescue 500 women and girls who were either sold as bondage labour or were pushed in the flesh trade in different parts of India and other countries. Officially, it is 300 girls in police records,” said Souriya. She admits she does not get cooperation from the administration in her work. In some cases, delay on the part of the administration helped the traffickers escape away with the girls. She has also helped the authorities get some traffickers behind the bars.

Source: Express India

Jay Shree sees sugar, tea output rising 8%

Jay Shree Tea and Industries expects 8% growth in its tea crop and sugar production this fiscal, its managing director DP Maheswari said.

“Tea production till now is higher by one million kg and I think the crop would be higher by 2 million kg by the year-end. Last year production was 24.1 million kg and it should be around 25.5-26 million kg in 2011-12,” Maheswari told reporters on the sidelines of the annual general meeting of the company.

Production of sugar, a sector into which Jay Shree diversified a year back by buying a Bihar-based sugar mill, M P Chini Industries, would also post same growth on the back of increased cane availability from the 1,000 acre plantation that came with the acquisition.

“In view of the dull market and high sugarcane prices, the company has taken steps to improve productivity and reduce costs. Hopefully, cane availability would be higher this year and the mill is likely to produce 42,000 tonne of white sugar this season. There would also be improvement in recovery from 9% to 9.5%,” vice-chairperson Jayashree Mohta told shareholders.

The company produced 38,662 tonne of white sugar in 2010-11 against 25,053 tonne in the previous year.
“As soon as we acquired the mill, we deputed a number of scientific experts to suggest ways to increase productivity and that is taking place now. We have planted cane of improved clonal variety, which is of better quality,” Maheswari said.

Jay Shree is now looking at newer export markets for its tea as there has been a sharp drop in shipments to some traditional markets.

“Despite Indian tea prices being lowest in the world, export is down mainly due to recent problem in Egypt and payment crisis in Iran. There have been talks with the commerce secretary last evening in Kolkata and we were assured that the Iran payment issue would get sorted out very soon,” Maheswari said.
“We trying to enter US and Australia and have started supplying CTC tea to China.”

Indian tea prices are now lowest in the world as many of global suppliers are now facing production crunch. “The Indian crop till July is higher by about 29 million kg while world crop is down by 24 million kg. The major contributors to this lower crop is Kenya where output is down by 33 million kg; Uganda which produced 14 million kg less while production in Sri Lanka is lower by five million kg,” Mohta told shareholders.

Maheswari expressed disappointment over prospect of tea prices.
“Prices are not doing well. There are number of factors. Among them there is now a very peculiar phenomenon that is happening in the industry. In four months we are producing almost 65% of production. Against an average production of, say, 70 million kg a month industry is producing 140-150 million kg, and this is depressing prices.”

According to Maheswari, an understanding among industry players to even out monthly production during the tea season is difficult as the industry is too fragmented.

Source: DNA India

This is a book that you need to read after coming home from a hard day’s work, with your feet up, while sipping — what else — a cup of freshly brewed Darjeeling tea. In today’s fast-forward world, such indulgences are rare and the easier option is to dunk a tea bag into a cup of hot water and pretend to enjoy the resulting mix. In truth, we are denying ourselves one of life’s great pleasures. If there’s one item produced in India that confidently carries the tag “the world’s finest”, it is Darjeeling tea. Of all the tea produced in China, Sri Lanka, India, Kenya and Turkey, Darjeeling carries a special cachet, much like caviar, foie gras or truffles. In most duty-free shops across the world, the one item with a made-in-India tag will be a pack of Darjeeling tea.

Tea is also grown in Assam, the Nilgiris, and the Dooars area of north Bengal, so what makes Darjeeling tea so special? Actually, it’s a lot like premium wine, where what the French call terroir — soil, climate, terrain, location and other factors — imparts a unique quality to whatever is grown there. Anybody who has been to Darjeeling, one of India’s loveliest hill stations, will have experienced its unique, old-world atmosphere and flavour, much like the product that is nurtured in its tea gardens.

Of course, there’s much more to what makes Darjeeling, and Darjeeling tea (the black variety as opposed to green tea made in China) so very special and Gillian Wright is eminently qualified to bring us up to speed on the magic and mystery behind Darjeeling’s famous product. She has made India her home for the last 20 years and collaborated with Sir Mark Tully on a number of books. More importantly, she has also produced a book on the hill stations of India.

The British, as we know since we inherited the passion, are a bit mad about tea but were also pioneers of tea production in India. All the original managers of tea gardens in the early days were from Britain, mainly Scotland.

The British connection may have inspired Wright but it’s not just a coffee-table variety with lots of pretty pictures. This is a serious, in-depth look at the history of Darjeeling tea and the elements that go into its making, but one that is made lively and entertaining with her style, personal involvement and discussions with a range of people, from retired and current tea planters, manufacturers, buyers at tea auctions and workers, including the nimble-fingered women who pluck the leaves from the bush.

Wright treats this book much like one would brew a cup of Darjeeling tea, allowing it to simmer in the pot and absorb the aromas. That process constitutes her research into how the tea plants first made their way to India from China to set up an industry that would, ironically, displace China as the leading maker and exporter of tea. We also learn that currently, the biggest buyers of high value tea like Darjeeling are Japan and Germany, where tea is becoming fashionable, and not Britain or America. Today, tea is the most popular drink in the world in terms of consumption, equalling all other manufactured drinks in the world — including coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, and alcohol — put together. Darjeeling, owing to its geography, soil and climate, has been producing premium teas for a century now, and they are still considered both rare and expensive, comparable to some of the most expensive wines. If you want to know why, Wright’s effort is worth savouring.

Source: Indian Express

Orthodox whole leaf teas dearer at Kolkata auctions

This week at Sale No. 38, the total offerings (packages) at three North Indian auction centers at Kolkata, Guwahati and Siliguri were 4,40,723 compared with 4,13,519 in the corresponding sale of the last year, according to J Thomas & Company Pvt Ltd, the tea auctioneers.

The offerings at Kolkata were 1,83,509 (1,88,413) comprising 1,56,057 (1,39,901) of CTC/Dust, 22,356 (42,436 ) of Orthodox and 5,096 (6,076) of Darjeeling Tea. The lowering offerings were due to the drop in Orthodox and Darjeeling packages.

The offerings at Guwahati were 1,50,518 (1,29,313) and Siliguri 1,06,696 (95,793) and comprised only CTC/Dust.

Selected clean and better liquoring Assam CTC teas were around last with few lines appreciating. The remainder were irregularly lower following quality. Well-made Dooars sold readily at firm to occasionally dearer rates, while the remainder tended irregularly easier. Tata Global was active. There was good support from Hindustan Unilever. Western India dealers were active for the liquoring sorts.        

Source: Business Line

India tea imports down 22 per cent in April-July, 2011

NEW DELHI: India's tea imports declined by 22 per cent to 5.19 million kg in the April-July period of the current fiscal.

The country had imported 6.62 million kg of the brew in the same period last fiscal, as per data released by the Tea Board.

India, the world's largest consumer of tea, imports the leaves solely for the purpose of re-export to other countries. The dip in imports thus signals less re-exports.

India's tea imports from China, Kenya, Malawi, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Iran, Argentina and Nepal declined in the first four months of the 2011-12 fiscal.

Imports of tea dipped by 19 per cent in July, 2011, to 1.67 million kg from 2.06 million kg in the year-ago period.

In the January-July period of the current calender year, imports of the brew fell by 19 per cent to 9.42 million kg from 11.64 million kg in the same period of the previous year.

India, the second biggest producer of tea in the world, accounts for about 28 per cent of global tea production and 14 per cent of trade. There are about 1,600 tea estates in India. The industry employs more than two million people.

Source: Economic Times

KOLKATA: In its bid to make the Darjeeling cuppa less expensive, the government, along with the Tea Board of India, is trying to make use of renewable energy in the gardens of Darjeeling. Almost 20 gardens have showed interest and submitted their respective detailed project reports to the ministry of renewable energy (MNRE).

"We have received detailed project reports from gardens interested in having captive micro hydel generating units, which we forwarded to the MNRE. The latter has sought some changes in these DPRs and has asked the gardens to get a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the state government regarding use of those waterfalls within its gardens for hydel power generation," a Tea Board official said.

According to the official, Tea Board has asked Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) to inform the tea garden owners about the changes sought by MNRE. DTA informed that there are around 60 water heads in the Darjeeling gardens. There are around 87 tea gardens in Darjeeling now.

By using this renewable energy, the tea gardens can surely curtail their cost of production. Uninterrupted power supply is a genuine problem in that zone and the gardens entail huge expenses when they run operations on diesel. All these costs add to the tea prices.

"Already the Makaibari Tea Estate has prepared a project report and given it to the MNRE. Two others - Dooteriah and Kalej Valley Tea Estate and Rongmook Ceders - have started working on this project," said Bengal power and renewable energy department's chief adviser S P Gon Chaudhuri.

One of the niche Darjeeling Tea garden, Makaibari Tea Estate, has submitted its DPR to the MNRE and the department has asked it to seek NOC from Darjeeling Gorkha Hills Council (DGHC). "We plan to generate hydel power from river Rakti, which is running through our estate. We plan to generate 4 MW from it, which we will be able to use for our gardens and the surplus we can supply to the grid of West Bengal State Electricity Board for the adjoining villages," said Rajah Banerjee, owner of Makaibari Tea Estate.

He said once installed, this generating unit could help cut production costs by 5-6%. According to Gon Chaudhuri, it will cost Rs 60 lakh to install 100 KW micro hydel generating units in each tea garden. "The Centre will give Rs 15 lakh as subsidy."

Earlier, the West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation (WBGEDC) and the Tea Board had jointly mooted this proposal and submitted to the Centre. "We are playing the role of facilitator and coordinator in this project," said Roshni Sen, deputy chairman of Tea Board.

Source: Times of India

New Delhi: Three days after the earthquake, Sikkim is still battling the aftermath. With many villages cut off, there are fears the quake horror could get worse. The death toll has now crossed 80, with 53 dead in Sikkim alone.

Relief and rescue operations have picked up speed and with the weather clearing up, authorities hope to get access to stranded areas. In fact on Tuesday, the Army was able to reach Mangan - the epicentre of the quake.

Meanwhile, electricity has been restored in Gangtok and officials say other towns will have full power supply within the next few days. However, restoration of communication lines still remains a big challenge. National Highway 55, which connects Bagdogra to Darjeeling and National Highway 31, that links Gangtok to Bagdogra, have been restored.

On the ground, relief and rescue workers have raced against time to open the arterial National Highway 31 that cut off the state since Sunday evening. By Tuesday evening rescue workers were able to clear the landslides both from Baghdograh to Gangtok and Gantok to Mangan. In the process, though, two Army jawans were killed.

Nine helicopters were mobilised and 10 doctors airlifted to Chungthang in North Sikkim. The Army has also deployed 10 medical units.

The Army says restoring communication lines beyond Mangan will be the next big challenge.

"The biggest challenge right now is to get the lines of communication through, to supply food to needy people. Road beyond mangan is very bad and it will take more than 20 days," said Lt Gen Bikram Singh.

The enormity of the damage is finally emerging, besides the loss to human lives. Over 15,000 houses were razed to the ground and more than 1 lakh were partially damaged. While the State Government is gradually restoring essential services like power and water supplies, the Government is yet to fully assess the economic damage.

Surviving the Sikkim quake

The Sikkim earthquake severed all communication links in the initial hours, causing many across the country who have family in Sikkim to fear the worst. Some have still not been able to contact their loved ones in the quake-hit areas.

In seconds, several lives lost, livelihoods destroyed and altered forever in the quake that jolted the North-East. But some like Devendra Jain were lucky though. His son and his family had left from Bhopal to Jharkhand on September 14 and were supposed to leave for Gangtok thereafter. He has now learnt through CNN-IBN that his family has been rescued and is safe. But he still hasn't been able to speak with them.

In the Motihar villlage in Bihar, 26-year-old Pankaj Singh's family is praying with all their might but have not heard from him since last afternoon.

The number of causalities has steadily risen, but even the loss to property has been immense. What's worse is that the roads to north Sikkim were blocked and bad weather and landslides slowed down help.

"All of a sudden tremors started and everything started moving. We went out and prayed to God. People started moving here and there for the safety," said a local.

The earthquake came lasted for a few seconds and went away but the ordeal for those who came under its wrath seems to have only just begun.

Locals abandon homes in fear

Fear is what greets you when you enter Sikkim. People huddled together, children sleeping under the open sky, families cramped inside cars. Sita Pradhan, 26, is still shaken, with an ailing 65-year old mother, she is on the streets with her seven-month-old baby, unable to sleep.

Pradhan said, "We are scared and we will spend the night out here."

Eight-year-old Minal did not go to school after the earthquake. She heard that some of her friends were injured in the quake. Sitting under the open sky with her six-year-old brother Ayushman, she still trembles at the thought of Sunday night.

Minal said, "Suddenly there was earthquake, my mother and I ran under the stairs. After than we went out and we have been sleeping under the open sky."

Families unable to sleep are camping outside in their cars. Saheb, 25, thinks it's better to have his dinner outside. But there are also those who don't just blame nature for their woes.

What you see in Rongpo is complete darkness - no power, no mobile connectivity. Cut off from the rest of the world are families who are spending their nights under the open sky, an experience that many of them wish they never had.

Source: IBN Live

Darjeeling tea party – India’s best cuppa

We reckoned that the menu and the cooking had not changed much since the British left India in 1948. The location on a rise overlooking the town is superb, with mountain views on all sides.

DARJEELING, India – Waiting on the platform for the train to Darjeeling, we made a beeline for the “chai wallah,” the tea vendor who can be found at every railway station throughout India. The chai he brews, called masala chai, is a sweet, thick, milky beverage, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, perhaps cardamom. The mixture of tea leaves, water and milk is boiled up in a vast cauldron together with the aromatic spices and plenty of sugar, left to simmer throughout the day, and served to the customer by the chai wallah pouring it through a strainer into the cup. It was a refreshing and fortifying drink for the journey ahead.

The ride to Darjeeling begins in the plains, passing through lush jungle forests. As the train climbs into the Himalayan foothills the view opens up, revealing the plantations where the world famed Darjeeling tea is grown.

Afternoon tea was already a popular institution in England in the 18th century, made from tea imported from China. In an attempt to break the Chinese monopoly the British East India Company introduced tea into India in the 1830s, and British colonists began to cultivate tea plantations, first in Assam then in Darjeeling.

However tea drinking within India only took off when the British-owned India Tea Association launched a campaign to encourage factories and mines to provide tea breaks for their workers. It also supported independent chai wallahs throughout the vast railway system. Today some 70 percent of India’s tea production is consumed in India, and masala chai is firmly established as India’s favorite drink, one of the enduring legacies of the British Raj.

The English style of tea drinking, then and to this day, is very different. The 4 o’clock afternoon tea ritual directs that the tea leaves are spooned into the teapot (previously warmed) and boiling water is then poured onto the leaves to produce a strong, aromatic infusion. After waiting three minutes for the brew to develop flavor, tea is poured, and small amounts of milk and sugar are added to the clear brown liquid in each porcelain cup.

And this, it so happened, was the formula which produced our next cuppa when we reached Darjeeling. We checked into the Windamere, a nostalgic hostelry left over from the Raj-era, just in time for afternoon tea. The furnishings in our bedroom said it all: chintz curtains, framed photographs and letters on the wall describing polo matches, boar hunts, dinner at the officers’ mess, visits by the Viceroy, and furniture dating back to the 1920s and ‘30s. Originally a boarding house for bachelor British tea planters, the Windamere was converted into a hotel in the 1930’s, and is now listed as a Heritage Hotel of India.

Afternoon tea lived up to our expectations. We were offered cucumber sandwiches, sponge cake, and scones with jam and clotted cream, washed down by a pot of Darjeeling tea, immaculately served by a whitegloved attendant, with frilly apron and cap. Windamere terms are full board only, so during our stay there we had to consume the three meals plus tea provided daily. Breakfast was porridge, eggs and bacon, fruit and poor coffee. Lunch and dinner were adequate but boring, so we graded the kitchen as 6 out of 10. We reckoned that the menu and the cooking had not changed much since the British left India in 1948. But the candle-lit dining room was charming, as were the comfortable sitting rooms, filled with books and pictures from a bygone era, and the roomy bedrooms with a wood fire lit in the grate on a cool evening, and hot water bottles provided in winter. The location on a rise overlooking the town is superb, with mountain views on all sides.

Darjeeling has much to offer the visitor. Top of the list is the spectacular view of Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain, which dominates the horizon. We crept out at dawn to Observatory Hill, a short walk from the Windamere Hotel, to view the sun rising, a pink flush on the mountain’s snow-covered peak. Organized tours take the visitor by taxi to Tiger Hill, a higher location, with a covered shelter and hot drink thrown in to counter the chilly morning air. Other attractions include the Darjeeling Zoo, and the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, a training center for would-be Everest beaters. It has a fascinating museum with historic artifacts from the ascents of Everest and other Himalayan highs. In the courtyard there is a statue of Sherpa Tensing, who was the first, together with Sir Edmund Hillary, to reach the Everest summit. Darjeeling with its multi-ethnic mix is a great jumping-off point for the neighboring countries of Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim and Bhutan. We visited the Tibetan Refugee Selfhelp Center, for refugees who fled Tibet following the Chinese invasion of 1957.

And then there is tea tourism, a new attraction for visitors to the tea growing areas of India. The climate in the hills is pleasant, and the steep slopes of shimmering green tea plantations stretch to the horizon. Visitor centers offer tours of the fields and the factories, and explain how the tea is produced. On a number of estates the owners have transformed the original planter’s bungalow into an up-market guest house or boutique hotel. Our choice was Glenburn, near Darjeeling, for a few days of Raj-style luxury and a crash course in tea-lore. The estate was started by a Scottish tea company in 1859 and is now owned by the fourth generation of one of India’s tea planting dynasties, the Prakash family.

Driving through the Glenburn estate we could see the pickers, squatting between the rows of tea bushes, each with a basket strapped to his or her shoulders. The women, nimble fingered, pick faster than the men, and bring in a higher yield. It is backbreaking work, and the pickers work long shifts. The estates, originally established by British tea planters, have been taken over by large companies, or are privately Indian owned. The estate owners are in effect a semi-autonomous feudal authority for the district, providing services and running the lives of the local villagers who work for them. Nowhere in India is the great divide between rich and poor more in evidence.

Guests at Glenburn are pampered from the moment of arrival. This was truly a “Jewel in the Crown” experience. We were greeted by our hostess Neena, and served a welcoming cuppa on the verandah, with its view of Kanchenjunga on the horizon. The complimentary laundry service dealt with our huge bag of dirty linen, returning it the next day in a pristine pile. The rooms are gorgeous, each a suite with sitting area, superb bathroom and private verandah, elegantly furnished in understated country style. The meals were imaginative and tasty, breakfast served in the garden under a pomela tree and lunch on the verandah. For dinner, after an aperitif on the lawn, the guests gathered round the candle- lit mahogany table in the dining room, a house party of 14, for a congenial evening of civilized discourse and delicious food and wine. Except for us, all the guests that week were Indian, and included the owner and his family.

In addition to food and drink and relaxing on the verandah, Glenburn offers a flexible program of sightseeing activities. Ours included a gentle walk through the tea gardens encircling the house, with a guide who gave us detailed information on every imaginable aspect of the tea bush and its cultivation. Hikes and excursions are arranged for visitors in accordance with their energy levels. Chauffeur driven transport is available at all times, and this includes transfer to the hotel and to the next destination. One morning Neena sent us off on an expedition through the plantation, a long hike with views of tea gardens, villages and the distant mountains, down to the river which is the border with Sikkim. We cooled off with a swim and paddle in the shallow, fast-running waters, and together with our fellow guests enjoyed a sumptuous picnic lunch, brought from the house by jeep, prepared and served al fresco by at least half a dozen servants. The cost of staying at Glenburn is currently 11,000 rupees, (approx. $230) per person per day, sharing a room. Except for drinks from the bar, everything as described above was included, and tea (or coffee or soft drinks) available at all time. The staff’s service and readiness to meet the visitor’s needs was efficient, warm and welcoming.

Our tea education concluded with a visit to the Glenburn Tea Factory. We saw the tea pickers coming in to have their baskets weighed after the early morning shift.

Their loads are tipped onto long benches for “withering,” to reduce the moisture and soften the leaves. This is the first stage of the process which converts the freshly picked green leaves into black tea. Next comes “rolling,” which takes place in the cool, dark fermentation room. This releases the essential oils and gets the fermentation-oxidization started. Then at a pre-determined moment, the fermentation process is halted and the leaves passed through a hot air dryer, the moment which determines the taste and quality of the tea. The finished product is sorted and graded, and packed into plywood tea chests, lined with aluminium foil. Over the years this process has been refined and developed to suit a wide variety of teas grown in different climates or at different altitudes. But the basics remain unchanged.

Finally the tea-tasting, a ceremony every bit as serious as a wine-tasting session in Burgundy. The plantation manager explained to us with great passion the characteristics and individual flavors of Whole Leaf, Silver Needle, Golden Tips, Oolong, and Flowery Orange Pekoe, the precise timing for picking Spring Flush, Summer Flush or Monsoon Flush, and the qualities that make First Flush Darjeeling the world’s costliest tea. We sipped and sniffed and cleaned the palate with dry biscuits, were duly impressed with the skill and dedication that is invested in producing these delicate flavors, and swore we would never again use a teabag.


Tea prices to stay firm as global output slips

Kochi, Sept. 19: Tea prices are likely to remain firm as production shortfalls loom large before Indian and global tea markets.

Persistent rains over the tea growing regions of South India during August and September is likely to adversely impact the crop. Though the rains seem to have abated by the third week of September, sources said, much of the damage has been done.

The surfeit production from North India made up for the sharp production shortfalls from South, said Mr R. Sanjith, Head of Commodities, United Planters Association of Southern India (UPASI).

Production affected

The incessant rains had affected plucking operations in South India. But it does not seem likely that the increased North Indian production, which had helped to buttress the slippages from South India, is likely to continue into the next few months.

Along with India, production shortfalls in Kenya, Sri Lanka and Uganda are likely to drag global production lower.

Kenya and Uganda

Global production had dipped by 11 million kg by July on account of huge shortfall from Kenya and Uganda. A dip in tea production from India could further tilt the delicate demand-supply balance in the global markets.

Indian production was higher by close to one million kg while Kenya reported a huge shortfall of 31 million kg. Ugandan production had slipped by over 5 million kg. Latest reports also indicate that persistent rains have begun to affect the tea crop from Sri Lanka. The island nation's tea production was up by close two million till July 2011. Sources in the trade said that all that could now change.


Tea exports from big producing countries, excluding China and Sri Lanka, had dipped during the current year. Indian exports witnessed the steepest decline on 17.5 million kg till July 2011, while Uganda recorded an export shortfall of six million kg and Kenya close to five million kg. The decreased tea arrivals in the coming months could mean that the prices are likely to remain firm.

Growth in China

While several countries recorded fall in exports, China reported brisk growth by close to 14 million kg by June 2011. Kenya was the biggest tea exporter in the world last year, accounting for over 25 per cent of the global tea trade, followed by China and Sri Lanka with over 17 per cent and with India with over 11 per cent.

After the sharp rise in tea prices during 2009, there was a dip in 2010 and the prices are continuing to rule at last year's levels. The emerging trends in global prices could become evident depending on the world production trends in the coming months.

Source: Business Line

18 people lost their lives as a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Sikkim on Sunday evening. The death toll is at 18 which includes 7 in Sikkim, 4 in West Bengal 2 in Bihar and 5 in Nepal.

The armed forces have deployed teams for relief and rescue activity, the centre is also sending emergency teams in. But heavy rains, intermittent power cut, and loss of mobile phone connectivity did hamper rescue operations in the initial hours.

At 6.10 pm on Sunday evening, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Sikkim. Mangan, 54 km from Gangtok, was the epicentre of that quake that left a trail of death and massive damages in its wake. It was not just Sikkim that was shaken, the tremors were felt in Delhi, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, North East and Nepal.

The quake has cut off Sikkim. Mobile connectivity has been hit. The national highway is closed after heavy rains followed by landslides and there are reports of people being trapped. The Army has already reached out to the affected.

The Center has rushed in teams of the National Disaster Response Force. They have been flown in from Delhi and Kolkata till Bagdora from where they proceed by road. But the bad weather and landslides are posing huge challenges.

The quake has given a rude jolt to Sikkim and many parts of northern and eastern India. Several homes and properties have been damaged but a clearer picture of the extent of damages is yet to come out.

Rescue operations underway

Rescue operations began within hours of the quake striking. Army columns in small teams have been deployed across Sikkim to provide humanitarian assistance. These columns comprise medical teams with first aid kits as well as engineers. 400 personnel from the National Disaster Relief Force have reached Bagdogra from where they will move by road.

30 columns from the 33 Cors in Siliguri are also engaged in rescue activity. Bihar is sending 160 personnel in. The BSF rescue team and the dog squad are there too. The DGP of Sikkim who was in Delhi when the disaster occurred will set out for Gangtok on Monday.

Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel rescued 200 civilians including 22 tourists, they've taken refuge at the Pegong camp. An IAF team carrying supplies is on its way.

Bihar, Gujarat offer assistance

States like Bihar and Bengal are also sending rescue teams to Sikkim. Others too have offered assistance.

"When the earthquake happened I too felt the termor. Our departments are on the job, we are gathering information," said Bihar Chief Minis Nitish Kumar.

"On behalf of the people of Gujarat I convey my condolences. Such a situation demands cooperation from all. The Gujarat government is ready to extend support to all those who have been affected," said Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Source: IBN Live