Darjeeling, June 6: Scared of losing out to Nepal, tea planters here have asked the government for more land to preserve their brand equity.
The Darjeeling Tea Planters’ Association said it needed to increase their produce to take on Nepal, which has set an ambitious target of raising its tea production by 30 times the current yield in a decade.
Last year, Darjeeling produced 8.8 million kg of its very own variety of tea. The figure is much higher than that of orthodox Nepal tea, the yield of which is 0.8 million kg every year. Darjeeling planters, however, believe that with the Nepalese government giving top priority to the tea industry the ratio might undergo a change in the future.
The Nepal Industrial Enterprises Act has already accorded national priority status to the tea industry that allows a 50 per cent rebate on income-tax duty, machinery and other equipment purchased for the industry.
The country has also formulated a national tea policy to hike the production of orthodox tea by 30 times. The policy offers incentives like priority lending with flexible repayment schedule, rebate on land registration tax, grant of government land for tea cultivation on 50 years’ lease, creation of a tea development fund and support for export promotion activities.
The aggressive promotion has already started paying off. Mitsui and Co. of Japan has agreed to purchase Nepal’s tea every year till 2010. It has also managed to extract a promise from Pakistan that it would buy 2,000 tonnes of tea annually. The Pakistani Tea Association has further agreed to request its government to waive duty on Nepal tea.
Sanjeev Seth, the secretary of the Darjeeling Planters Club, said: “We will face stiff competition from Nepal in the coming years. We have requested our government to allow conversion of the classified land under the grant area for plantation purposes.”
The planters’ association is planning to undertake cultivation in virgin areas of Darjeeling, especially Kalimpong, to increase production. The slump in the industry was reflected in last year’s produce. Experts said the yield was the lowest in the history of the industry here.