Tribune News Service
Shimla, May 19
The ailing Kangra-tea industry may get a fresh lease of life with the high possibility of it getting the Geographical Indication (GI) registration with the European Commission (EC) which will open up foreign markets for the sale of the product.
It was almost four years ago that the Patent Information Centre in the Council for Science, Technology and Environment moved the case for GI registration of Kangra tea, known for its unique flavour and colour with the EC.
Kangra tea along with Kullu shawl, Kinnauri shawl, Kangra paintings and Chamba Rumaal have already been bestowed with the GI registration with Geographical Indications Registrar Office, Chennai.
“We are very close to clinching the GI registration with the EC as some more queries sought by the EC are being answered and legal opinion is being sought,” officials said.
The Tea Board of Indian and the Commerce Ministry were also pursuing the issue, he said.
The EC was keen on getting complete details about the general location, traceability and the impact of climatic conditions on Kangra Tea.
The GI registration of Kangra Tea with the EC will not only help growers get good prices for the green as well as black tea produced in Kangra and Mandi gardens, but will encourage others to take to its cultivation.
The tea industry is faced with a bleak future and the area under it has remained more or less stagnant while production is almost down to half of what it was 20 years ago. The products next in line for the GI registration are chulli oil (wild apricot oil) and Kinnauri kala zeera, for which all formalities have been completed and submitted. Being a labour-intensive crop, a major problem being faced is of work force and moreover, there was a need for re-plantation as the bushes were too old and give very poor yield.
“Many growers have now bought plucking machines to tide over the problem of labour, but it is a fact that tea cultivation is no longer very lucrative,” most tea owners said. The Chinese hybrid variety of tea was introduced in Kangra way back in 1852 by the British.
Presently, there are 5,900 tea gardens spread over an area of 2312 hectares between Shahpur-Palampur-Baijnath-Jogindernagar. The tea production which was 9.8 lakh kg in 2011-12 has declined to 8.99 lakh kg. In 1998, the total tea production of the state touched a record 17 lakh kg, but now several gardens were lying abandoned.
The black tea which constitutes almost 90 per cent of the production is sold at the Calcutta Auction Centre and the Green Tea at Amritsar. On an average, black tea fetches close to Rs 170 per kg, while the green tea sells for Rs 100 per kg. The April flush fetches Rs 600 to 800 per kg, said officials in the Tea Board of India and Technical Office of the Agriculture department at Palampur.
Efforts by the Tea Board of India to revive the tea industry have failed to bring about the desirable results.
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