Bhim Chapagain/Republica A Gorkha Tea Estate of Ilam drying tea leaves at the company’s tea processing unit in this recent photo.
ILAM, May 2: Last year small scale tea farmers as well as big tea production companies were anxious over the lower tea production in Ilam and other surrounding districts famous for tea production. Thanks to favorable climate and rain on time, they are all smiles now. They are excited this year stating that the increased production is going to fetch good profit for their business than they had made in the past.
“We are really very happy this year to observe our tea gardens. When we stroll around the tea garden, we feel that the yield is better than in the past. Last and the year before that the tea yield was not better because of bad weather coupled with scarcity of fertilizers,” said Nirananda Acharya, manager of Kanchanjangha Tea Estate and Research Centre located at Fidim of Panchthar. “We estimate the tea production to increase greatly this year than in the past,” he added.
Green tea harvested in the first phase, which falls in April - May is considered to be of the best quality. Stakeholders claim that production of this tea, known as the ‘first class production’ among tea developers, has decreased by 40 percent last year. But this year, Acharya says, the production volume has grown equally more. And such a huge increase in production within a year is a matter of celebration for tea farmers and production companies, he added.
“The first pick is very much encouraging. It has gone up by around 40 percent this time. Considering the tea production volume in the recent years, it is very impressive,” stated Acharya. “We are in a position to export much higher and better quality green tea this year.” Tea is grown in private gardens, big farm houses and government farms across Ilam.
Elaborating on the factors that boosted the yield this year, Acharya pointed to the moderate rainfall received during February this year. The rain, he claimed, helped the green tea leaves grow greatly.
Last year, his company had produced 40 tons of tea. This time, the company is expecting to sell off at least 50 tons of tea. “We are hopeful that we could boost our business,” he said. “Last year and years before that our business has not been very satisfactory but this year we are expecting good business.”
Gorkha Tea State of Ilam has the same experience. Uday Chapagain, owner of the company reported that the growth of green leaves this time was so overwhelming that the company had hard time collecting it on time. “Since there was good rainfall at the end of winter, the green leaves turned very healthy. The growth was so much rapid that we had difficulty in picking them on time,” he narrated. “It’s very encouraging for all those associated with tea production. From tea farmers to companies to government, it is great year.”
Earlier, the tea business had gone so low that many small scale tea farmers as well as big production houses were on the brink of closing down, Chapagain shared. If climate is not favorable, tea business could incur serious loss but when it goes well, profit is equally high, he stated.
Gorkha Tea State sells around 70,000 kg of organic tea every year. Though the demand of organic tea is always high, availing best quality organic tea is always a challenge, he said.
Indira Gurung agrees that ensuring good quality is always very sensitive issue in tea production. Even though the production looks encouraging this time, quality checking could be equally difficult, said Gurung, who manages the state-owned Ilam Tea Estate in the district. “This time, green leaves have been bigger, greener and lovelier than in the previous years. But this does not guarantee equally good quality. This has to be checked,” she stated. Despite the challenges in ensuring good quality of green tea, she nonetheless agreed that it definitely a great year for tea businesses.
The production soared so high that some tea processing company had to reach out to other companies for processing their yield. Maipokhari Tea Procession Company is one of these companies. “This year, the green leaves grew so fast and so much that our company sent it to other’s factory for processing. We could not manage to process all the quantity we had,” said Sharad Subba, owner of the company.
According to Nepal Tea and Coffee Development Board, Nepal’s tea and coffee could claim bigger international market if it could ensure proper irrigation facility to cope with adverse weather conditions. Tea produced in Ilam, Panchthar, Dhankuta, Jhapa and Tehrathum is famous in and outside the country.