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Hill tea feels Japan heat

Siliguri, April 1: Producers of the Darjeeling Tea are staring at losses with Japan, the third largest importer of the produce, placing less orders and quoting lower prices following the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

“We are apprehensive that the disaster which shook Japan last month will have an impact on the Darjeeling tea industry as of the 7.5 million kg of special brew produced in the hills, one million kg is exported to that country,” said Ankit Lochan, the director of the Siliguri-based Lochan Tea Limited.

He added that prices of the Darjeeling Tea sold to Japan ranged between Rs 3,000 and Rs 10,000 per kg.

But Japan has cut down on the orders and is offering lower prices now.

“A Japanese importer, who had earlier ordered, say 100 kg of tea, is now asking for 25-30 kg, that too at lower prices. While we had sold tea for Rs 3,000 per kg in the past, they are offering Rs 1,500 now,” said Lochan.

Girish Sharda, the proprietor of Nathmull’s Tea Room in Darjeeling, echoed Lochan. “There have been no inquiries from Japan this season. We had talked to some tea importers in Japan who do business with us. It seems that importing the Darjeeling Tea is not their priority right now.”

However, the Darjeeling Tea Association exuded confidence and said ultimately, Japan would place bulk orders at higher prices and the industry would surmount the crisis.

ITA hikes wage

Twenty tea gardens in the Darjeeling hills under the Indian Tea Association raised the daily wage of workers to Rs 90 on Friday.

Following the hike in the wages, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-affiliated tea union has lifted the embargo on the despatch of the first flush from the ITA gardens.

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