The indefinite shutdown in Darjeeling hills has hit hard its famed tea industry with the premium quality ‘second flush’ tea leaves going waste causing heavy losses to the garden owners and putting at stake the livelihood of more than two lakh tea workers.
Darjeeling is home to 87 tea gardens and the ongoing shutdown has pushed them to the brink. The tea garden owners feel that they will be losing 45 per cent of their yearly revenue.
“This is the season of second flush, which gives very high quality tea leaves. The tea that is produced in this season accounts for around 40 per cent of the total revenue generated. We will be losing it completely as the leaves will get elongated,” Arun Singh, managing director at Goodricke Group Ltd told PTI.
The West Bengal-based group owns several tea estates in Darjeeling and produces around 10 percent of the total tea produced in the hills.
Flush means picking up of small high quality leaves at the beginning of the season and the tea produced out of it are one of the best in the world.
Darjeeling tea gardens have five flushes in a year. The first flush, also known as spring flush happens in March, the second flush known as summer flush takes place from June 1 – June 30 or first week of July. The rest three are the monsoon flush, autumn flush and winter flush, explained Azam Monem, chairman of Indian Tea Association (ITA).
“Darjeeling produces around 8-10 million kg of tea every year, out of which 50 percent is exported. The tea that is produced in the second flush is completely exported as it is the most high quality premium one. It fetches around 45-50 per cent of total revenue. The loss that the tea industry in Darjeeling is incurring will run into crores,” Momen told PTI.
S S Bagaria, former chairman of Darjeeling Tea Association and owner of four tea gardens, said the shutdown is a “death knell” for the tea industry of Darjeeling.
“This year in the first flush we had faced losses due to lack of proper rains. In the second flush we are facing this shutdown. We are losing premium quality tea. Now the leaves will get elongated and will have to be slashed off. We will lose both financially and production-wise,” S S Bagaria told PTI.
According to Monem, ITA has sent representation to the union home ministry, the commerce ministry, the state government and Gorkha Janamukti Morcha for steps to save the tea gardens from incurring heavy losses.
“We are yet to hear anything positive. Apart from the losses, livelihood of lakhs of people are involved,” Momen said.