Ilam tea farmers face worker shortage

- BIPLAV BHATTARAI, Illam

Jun 18, 2017-

Ilam tea farmers are facing a shortage of workers as more youths are opting to go abroad to find employment. This has led to the tea production hub of Nepal facing increasing difficulty in hiring enough workers to pick tea leaves.

 Nearly three thousand farmers in Nepal are dependent on tea production. According to Gitaram Nepal, a tea farmer based in Jamuna, she can hardly maintain the quality of tea due to the shortage of workers. “I have to work with my workers to pick tea leaves together. Even with added bonuses for workers, there are few takers,” she added. 

Last year, Nepal used machines to pick tea leaves to compensate for a lack of manpower. But the machine did not perform optimally and she went back to picking tea leaves manually. However, the demand for tea picking machine has been increasing day by day. 

Farmers say that the use of the machine degrades the productivity of the plants. They claim that the products lose the quality and attraction when cut continuously by the machine.

There is also lack of workers in the gardens under the corporations of the district. Some workers have been lured to alternative jobs while others have gone for foreign employment. 

Even though there is high shortage of workers in the tea garden, there is no reduction in the number of people applying for foreign employment.  Farmers said that workers earn Rs 20 per kg in average. However due to a dearth of able hands, the tea plants are about to languish in garden.   

Rudra Ghimire of Shreeantu said, “All the farmers have planted tea in the gardens. So, there is a shortage of workers. Farmers are being negatively affected due to delays in picking leaves, which results in less amount earned.”  

The situation has gotten so dire that workers from India come to Nepal to pick tea leaves. A decade ago, it was the opposite where Nepali workers were the ones going to the tea gardens of Darjeeling for employment. 

Published: 18-06-2017 08:30

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