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Small sector's Bengal tea share up

Siliguri: The small tea sector has for the first time contributed to more than 50 per cent of the production in Bengal last year.

"There was a change in the production share of big gardens and small growers or bought leaf factories in the tea sector in the state. In 2017, 51 per cent of the total yield has come from the small cultivators, which was only five per cent in the nineties," said P. Mudgal, the chairman of the north Bengal branch of Tea Association of India.

He was speaking at the annual general meeting of the branch last week.

In 2017, the estimated tea production in Bengal was around 365 million kilos, which is slightly higher than the 2016 production, when it was 356.30 million kilos, said sources.

That the small tea sector has started moving close to the estates in terms of production was indicated at the end of the last fiscal (2016-2017), said representatives of the small growers. In the last fiscal, the total production in the state was 357.39 million kg, out of which the small tea sector had produced 180.09 million kg, which was 50.39 per cent.

"The 51 per cent contribution has been made only on the basis of tea produced in bought leaf factories. But it is a fact that several growers sell tealeaves to estates. If that is added, we believe the contribution of our sector will not be less than 60 per cent," said Bijoygopal Chakraborty, the president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Associations.

In Bengal, the small sector has emerged in the past 20 years.

Chakraborty explained the reasons for the high yield from small sector. "Production of tealeaves has increased. Moreover, we maintain our plantations in the best possible manner and bushes are young, which is why they yield more leaves."

Till now, Tamil Nadu was the only state where small tea sector enjoyed a share of over 50 per cent in the production.

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