| Season’s flavour |
Jorhat, Sept. 12: Arunachal Pradesh is planning to become a major producer of tea with scientists predicting its potential to produce aromatic tea like Darjeeling.
“With the hilly terrain and climatic condition similar to Darjeeling, Arunachal Pradesh has the potential to produce aromatic tea on the lines of Darjeeling,” the director of Tea Research Association, N. Muraleedharan told The Telegraph today.
While Assam tea is famous for its strong liquor, Darjeeling tea is known worldwide for its flavour (aroma).
Muraleedharan said that the association will be opening a permanent base in Itanagar next month to guide tea growers in that state in a bid to shape another Darjeeling in the land of the dawn-lit mountains, as Arunchal Pradesh is also called. “We also have plans to set up a laboratory there to help the tea planters in the near future,” he said.
The association has imparted a month’s training to a group of small tea growers from Arunachal Pradesh recently at Tocklai Experimental Station here.
Muraleedharan said the advantage with Arunachal Pradesh is that the tea produced would be from young bushes, which produce better quality leaf, and these tea plants will be of high quality tea clones developed by the research association. “We will advice the planters to plant tea bushes of aromatic quality in the hilly areas,” the TRA director said.
The director said that TRA has been laying stress on Arunachal tea growers to go for organic production, which have great demand.
Toko Togur, the assistant director of department of trade and commerce in Arunachal Pradesh, said that the state is taking all necessary steps to promote tea cultivation in the state in a big way.
“We have taken a group of small tea growers to Darjeeling a few months ago for an interactive session with the tea planters there so that they learn the nitty gritties of the tea growing process,” Togur said. He added that moves were on to form self-help groups among tea growers to organise the sector.
Samjib Rajbongshi, a Tea Board of India official based in Itanagar, said Arunachal Pradesh has the potential to produce aromatic tea on the lines of Darjeeling but it would take time. “We have to make a scientific approach and start cultivation of tea in high altitude locations, like in Darjeeling, to produce aromatic tea,” he said.
There are about 40 registered big gardens (above 10.12 hectares) in Arunachal Pradesh and 32 registered small tea gardens at present, apart from 4,500 unregistered small tea gardens. There are also 20 factories, which produce about 10 million kg of tea per year at present.
“Unlike Assam, it requires a clearance from ministry of environment and forest to set up a tea garden in Arunachal Pradesh as such the registered tea growers are much less,” he said.
Rajbongshi said that most of the gardens in Arunachal Pradesh are located in border areas along Assam and green leaves produced in these gardens are ferried to factories in Assam.
Tea Board has set up an office in Itanagar in September last year and has plans to expand its facilities in the state.
“We are trying to help the tea growers in whatever way possible and hope that with a scientific approach and help from Tocklai, Arunachal can produce flavoured tea like Darjeeling, if not better,” he said.