| The Durama Tea outlet at Rongram, on the outskirts of Tura. Picture by Saidul Khan |
Tura, Aug. 10: The West Garo Hills Tea Farmers’ Federation in Meghalaya is all set to expand its tea-manufacturing unit in Rongram.
The unit, established by the farmers’ federation in 2009, has made a significant impact, manufacturing tea labelled Durama Tea.
The federation had applied for assistance of Rs 35 lakh from the Tea Board of India, regional unit, Guwahati, a few months ago.
“We are expecting that the board will release the funds, so that we can expand our unit at Rongram and increase the production of tea,” said Crenathson Marak, the secretary of the federation.
The federation has scripted a success story for the tea growers who had decided to abandon cultivation. Many cultivators are now selling their produce from the unit.
“The farmers are benefiting, as they have a ready market,” said Marak.
The manufacturing unit produces nearly 80,000kg to 1 lakh kg of made tea, which is sold in local markets across Meghalaya and in Goalpara district of Assam.
“Our production is not much, so we have not yet expanded our base to other areas,” he said.
Seven years ago, the tea growers had decided to abandon their gardens.
“The unique topography of the region has blessed the tea with liquor and flavour, which is otherwise found either in Assam or Darjeeling,” said James Marak, a senior horticulture officer.
In 1984, tea plantation was initiated in Tebronggre village on an experimental basis, nearly 20km from Tura in West Garo Hills.
Marak said after the experiment was a success, the villagers were encouraged to go for tea plantation.
At least 66 villages in and around Rongram, spread across 500 hectares, are engaged in tea plantation.
“There was heavy competition between two manufacturing units in 1980s and the farmers were benefiting a lot. In late 1990s, one of the units was closed, creating a difficult situation for the tea growers,” said Senti Jamir, a rural development officer.
The closure of one of the tea-manufacturing units posed a serious challenge, as the existing units reduced the price of the green tea leaf to Rs 2 per kg. “Between 2001 and 2005, the green tea leaves were sold at a price between Rs 3.50 and 4.50 per kg.
“The situation was pathetic for the farmers,” Jamir added.
In 2006, under the leadership of the then deputy commissioner of West Garo Hills, P. Sampath Kumar, a campaign to form the tea farmers’ federation was initiated.
In May 2006, the West Garo Hills Tea Farmers’ Federation was created.
“The farmers were in a dilemma. We managed to convince them to form the federation and began to sell green tea leaves to M/s Supreme Tea Company of Assam. They gave us good price for the leaves,” the officer added.
In 2009, the tea-manufacturing unit was completed under Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana.
Under the scheme, Rs. 1.75 crore was sanctioned for the farmers’ federation.
The community contributed land and labour, amounting to Rs 6.13 lakh.
At present, the green tea leaves are sold at Rs 15 per kg.
“The initiative of the federation is in a right direction but more efforts and support is required to facilitate this. More marketing facilities are the need of the hour,” said an official of the horticulture department.