The Telegraph
Monday , June 23 , 2014
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Play-by-rulebook planter cuts drought losses

- Small tea grower in Sonitpur reports only 5% drop in production in first flush during dry spell

Jorhat, June 22: Gajen Barman is one small tea grower who has weathered the recent drought in the state with the cheer that his morning cuppa lends every day.

His BH mini tea garden, mentioned as a model tea garden in the visitors’ book that he maintains, suffered only a five per cent drop in green leaf production in the first flush, compared to 30 to 40 per cent drop recorded by other small and big gardens.

Barman, whose garden is situated at Sirajuli near Dhekiajuli in Sonitpur district, attributes his success to a strict adherence to the rules of tea growing. “Whether it is plucking, pruning, skiffing, manuring, watering or spraying, I always play by the rulebook, meticulously noting every aspect over the years. My garden is not just a means of earning revenue. It is my shrine. There is no off-season or season time for me,” he said. Barman lovingly tends the mini tea garden, named after his parents Bharat and Haripriya, throughout the year.

Comments in the visitors’ book describe the picture postcard quality of the manicured lawns and lush vegetation.

“I have received training thrice in the tea advisory programme of the tea husbandry and technology department of Assam Agricultural University since 2006. This has stood me in good stead. During prolonged dry spells, I irrigate 4.25 hectares of plantation through sprinklers. If I have other problems, I get back to the department for advice,” he said.

Gautam Saikia, a professor and co-ordinator of the programme, said if all the tea growers who received training here followed the rules, they could minimise the losses.

According to a Tea Association of India report, crops in Assam declined by 40 and 30 per cent in April and May respectively.

The shortfall was predicted to touch 50 million kg if other gardens belonging to other associations, bought leaf factories and small growers were taken into consideration. Saikia added that Barman’s garden was so picturesque that the tourism department could explore the idea of putting it on a tea tourism map.

High-level officials in the tea industry and people from abroad have visited Barman’s garden.

C.S. Saikia, the director of Tea Board, Guwahati, in 2003, writes, “I am impressed by the excellent upkeep of the garden and the ideal practices followed by Barman. Others should see and emulate.”

The same year, Ram Bajekal, then director of Parry Agro, states: “Wonderful to see a model farm, which is much more than a tea garden. Congratulations I am sure this showpiece will gain a lot of fame and fortune.”

Other comments range from, “A well laid out manicured and nurtured garden,” to “A very impressive operation. The cultivation, record keeping and MIS all serve as examples for corporates to follow.”

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