ILAM, Oct 31: European tea traders are demanding Nepali tea in large quantities after disruption of their import from Darjeeling due to ongoing Gorkhaland movement. A team of 10 European businessmen were in a three-week visit to Ilam and Dhankuta districts in eastern Nepal to order tea for next year.
The business team from Gschwendner Company of Germany visited Gorkha Tea Estate (GTE) and Himalayan Shangri-La Tea Producers Pvt Ltd (HSTPPL) of Ilam and Gurasey Tea Industry (GTI) in Dhankuta.
Many European traders had bought high-quality organic tea from Nepal in this year too as Darjeeling was on strike for 104 days with a demand for a separate Gorkhaland state during the prime season.
"Organic tea of Ilam and other hilly districts of Nepal with environment similar to Darjeeling has now become the choice for foreign tea traders," said Udaya Chapagain, the promoter of GTE. "The foreign traders want to import tea from Nepal because our tea is better than that of Darjeeling since tea is produced from young bushes in Nepal," he added.
According to Chapagain, the demand of tea from Europeans for the coming year is beyond the production capacity of Nepali tea producers. He said that foreign traders are, however, not willing to buy tea other than organic tea which is produced in very little amount in Nepal.
“Our factory has already produced 50,000 kilograms of tea this year and we expect to produce an additional quantity of 10,000 kilograms in the next two weeks. Our outputs are lower this year due to fog and incessant rainfall,” he shared.
Kamal Mainali, promoter of HSTPPL, also agrees with Chapagain.
“Nepali tea is gaining the market in a high pace because of downfall of tea produced in Darjeeling. Tea production is highly weather-dependent, so we are not sure about the amount of tea we will be providing them next year,” said Mainali.
Maipokhari Tea Industry (MTI) is also struggling to meet the demand. It has received demand of 50,000 kilograms of tea while it has the capacity to produce only 5,000 kilograms, said Sharad Subba, promoter of MTI.
The unrest in Darjeeling has not only increased the demand for Nepali tea, it has also helped to push up the price for tea farmers, according to Nepali traders.
“Demand as well as the price offered to Nepali tea has increased due to the unrest in Darjeeling and accordingly we paid an extra amount of Rs 17 per kilogram to the farmers this year,” said HSTPP's Mainali.
Traders also underline the need to enhance the quality for Nepal's tea to get better price abroad.
“The demand for high quality tea is always high in the foreign market. Nepali tea can get a very handsome price in the foreign market if we put our efforts on uplifting the quality and quantity of our outputs,” added Subba.
According to Nepal Tea and Coffee Development Board (NTCDB), 24.2 million kilogram tea was produced in the Fiscal Year 2015/16. Out of the total production, 5.8 million kilogram was orthodox tea while 18.4 million kilogram was CTC tea. Only 300,000 kilogram of orthodox tea was organic out of the total output, according to estimates provided by the industrialists.