DAMAK, July 25: With price of green tea declining rapidly, many farmers of the district have decided to get rid of tea bushes and cultivate new crop. For this, they have decided to give green leaves as a bonus to laborers who pluck leaves for them.
Though price of tea is increasing, price of green leaves is falling with each passing season. Farmers say the price that they are getting from traders cannot even meet their cost of production.
Prakash Budhathoki of Baigundahra in Gauradaha-9 has been growing tea in 35 bigaha (14,400 square foot) of land for the past two decades. Thanks to consistent drop in price of leaves, his tea garden has now shrunk to 10 bigaha. Now, he is finding hard times to pay workers plucking tea leaves.
“To attract more workers, I have decided to offer tea leaves to workers who pluck leaves,” he said.
He has posted the message on his Facebook wall in a clear indication that he is prepared to give up tea farming.
According to Budhathoki, the price of a kilogram of readymade tea in 1998 was around Rs 125, while price of green leaves hovered over Rs 18. “The price of tea has jumped to Rs 350 per kilogram, but the price of tea leaves has fallen by more than half to Rs 8 per kg,” he said, adding: “I have arrived at the conclusion that tea farming is not viable.”
Farmers like Budhathoki are preparing to give up tea farming as tea industrialists are not offering good price for good leaves. “Until some years ago, there used to be uniformity in price of green leaves. Now, price of leaves is determined by Indian industrialists,” Budhathoki told Republica.
Finding tea farming no more viable, Budhathoki has now decided to start fish farming. “I am expecting fish farming to be better than tea farming in terms of yields,” he said, adding: “Small farmers will continue to be displaced from tea farming if price of green leaves is not fixed scientifically.”
Suresh Paudel of Baigundhara has also been clearing bushes from his tea garden spread over 8 bigaha. “The price that industrialists are offering to us is not sufficient to even pay workers who are plucking leaves in our farm. We have to pay Rs 6 per kg to workers, while industrialists pay us only Rs 8 per kg. Remaining amount is insufficient to transport tea to industries,” he added. “I will clear bushes and plant paddy in my farm.”
Local farmers had switched to tea farming decades ago with a belief that this cash crop will give more yields compared to paddy. However, with tea not getting sufficient price, farmers are forced to switch back to paddy, according to Paudel.
According to Tea and Coffee Development Board, tea farming is done in 10,212 hectares of land in Jhapa. Small farmers have cultivated tea in 3,702 hectares which is 37.57 percent of total tea plantation area.