Tea factories in east close for lack of leaves
May 22, 2014-
Many tea factories in the Eastern Region have been forced to shut down due to a severe drought that has affected the output of green tea leaves. The closure has hit the livelihood of small holders and tea workers.
While the region received scanty rainfall in the first week of May, it has been completely dry since then. Factories in Ilam, Panchthar and Dhankuta have a capacity to produce 3,500 tonnes of orthodox tea annually.
Adverse weather has affected the growth of baby leaves of tea plants in most of the tea estates. “Mills have been forced to shut down due to a shortage of green tea leaves,” said Mahesh Aryal of the Ilam Tea Estate in Panchakanya. “This year, drought continued for at least a month coinciding with the season when baby leaves grow.”
Most of the mills have been out of action for the last two weeks. “We were forced to stop processing tea after we received only 200-250 kg of leaves compared to our daily processing capacity of 15 tonnes,” Aryal said.
On a normal day, mills in Ilam district process more than 100 tonnes of tea leaves. Tea farmers and workers said that the prolonged drought had affected the development of tea leaves. They said that if it rains, the second phase of plucking could be started.
Farmers who have been complaining that they are not being paid enough for
their tea leaves are facing another problem this season. “Low prices and inadequate production of tea leaves have made it difficult for us to make ends meet,” said Dambar Katuwal, a tea grower at Kanyam, Ilam.
There are two dozen large tea factories and three dozen small tea factories in Ilam. Organic tea producers pay Rs 45 per kg of tea leaves while non-organic factories pay Rs 25-30 per kg. Tea farmers hope that prices will increase after the second phase of tea plucking starts which depends on adequate rain.
Nepal produces 20 million kg of tea annually including CTC, orthodox and specialty teas from 51 processing plants. Out of the total output, 60 percent is exported — 58 percent to India and the rest to other countries. According to tea producers, Nepal has a capacity to produce 100 million kg of tea annually.
Published: 22-05-2014 09:28