Small Tea Growers Demand For Their Rights On International Tea Day

While 5000 tea workers assemble at Raja Bhat Tea Estate in Kalchini district of West Bengal today 15.12.2016 to observe the 11th International Tea Day, we at Rangsaa stand with all the Small Tea Growers (STG)  in India and Center for Education and Communication (CEC) to bring forward the problems and demands of small tea growers across India. This is our attempt to contribute to the well-being of the people behind our cups of tea and highlight their issues to all our readers and the world. Next cup of tea you take, think of tea plantation workers, their condition and their rights. Together we can make a difference.

The petition, which highlights the demands of small tea growers of Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, is signed today and submitted to the Ministry of Commerce and Industries. Following is the memorandum submitted.

Small Grower Statement

We, the representatives of following Primary Producer Societies or collectives of small tea growers in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram are celebrating December 15, the international tea day with increased sense of self worth.

We are proud to be the producers of Tea, a health drink. India is the second largest producer of this health drink in the world. We, the small farmers, though having on an average less than 2 acres of land, are proud to contribute 33.85% in 2015-16 of tea produced in India. That this is a recent phenomenon could be gauged from the fact that in 1999 small growers’ contribution was only 1.16% of the total production. In 2015-16, of the total production of 1233.14 million kgs of tea, small sector contributed 417.42 million kgs based on an aggregation of tea manufactured by 568 bought leaf factories. Our contribution to the total tea production in India must be higher if our supply to estate factories are also considered.

Small farmer’s production is almost twice the quantity of tea exported by India. During the financial year 2015-16 India exported 232.92 million kgs valued at Rs. 4493.10 crore. We are feeling proud of the fact that we contribute not only to meet the growing domestic demand for tea in India but also to obtain valuable foreign exchange.

Small sector contributes to employment generation in the rural areas, uplifting hundreds of thousands of people from poverty and it prevents distress migration. Tea cultivation is respectful self-employment for thousands of young people, and in all tea growing areas; and it also absorbs as workers a large number of unemployed from the large tea estates.

For small growers, land is not a commodity, but a source of life and livelihood, integral to our existence. Overcoming compulsions from chemical and fertiliser companies, increasing number of farmers are following responsible agricultural practices, moving towards chemical free and organic agriculture.

We want Central and State governments to recognise our contribution to the nation, its economy, ecology and to the people of India and of the World.

  1. We strongly urge the Government of India to ensure that we get a fair price for our produce by
    a. strong and participatory enforcement of Price Sharing formula
    b. ensuring better price for better quality of leaf supplied
    c. making available certified organic manure and pesticides

  2. We urge the Government of India not to delay the declared subsidies to small growers including leaf collection shed, leaf weighing machine, leaf carrying bag, pruning machine, plucking machine, irrigation equipments and computer.

  3. We urge the Government of India to extend crop insurance scheme to all small growers without any delay.

  4.  We urge the Government of India to implement universal social security and health coverage for the workers working in our gardens.

  5. We urge the Government of India to encourage collectives of small growers having 100 acres of land, quality leaves, and compliance to Plant Protection Code to set up factories to manufacture chemical free / organic green specialty tea and facilitate their marketing ventures by
    a. easing steps to set up such units, especially, approvals for land, building and machinery
    b. easing steps to obtain other necessary permits and licences including electricity, pollution, sales tax etc
    c. ensuring easy access to credit from NABARD, SFAC and other public as well as private financial institutions
    d. extending financial assistance as is available for big factories

On the occasion of 11th International Tea Day, we stand united with self-respect for responsible, sustainable and remunerative tea cultivation and assure everyone quality tea.

Name of the Person Signing, Name of the PPS, Name of the District

International Tea Day – A Day with a Purpose

Tea DayIn a country like India, with more than 840k tonnes of tea consumption every year, many might wonder about the significance of International Tea Day.

To begin with, the first ever International Tea Day was celebrated in New Delhi, on 15th December 2005. Although, the idea of establishment of International Tea Day existed for many years, the first decisions were made in 2005 after the World Social Forum in Mumbai. And since then, ITD has officially been observed on 15 December every year, giving us an opportunity to reflect on the impact of an industry, that millions of farmers and workers across the globe depend on for their livelihood.

International Tea Day is observed in many tea producing countries like India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Malaysia, Uganda and Tanzania. The day surely celebrates tea but there’s lot more to it – there’s a purpose and agenda. The day aims to spread awareness about the tea producing countries, the tea growers, their communities and the trade of tea. It draws global attention of governments and citizens to the problems of tea industry, tea production and the impact of the global tea trade on the workers.

The global tea industry is facing many challenges that require immediate attention and must be faced together. Some of these include undervaluing of tea as a commodity, effects of climate-change on tea production & quality, gender equality and very low wages of the tea workers. Thankfully, on the brighter side, there are global organisations like Fairtrade and Ethical Tea Partnership that are working together to address these problems and make the future of the tea industry more sustainable.

We believe if we are well aware about the tea that we drinking, we can demand improved situations and salaries within the industry. We also have the option of choosing fair trade and organic. When we purchase organic tea, we support a healthier living and better salaries for hundreds of tea pickers worldwide.

Today, we extend our gratitude and appreciation to everyone who is involved in the journey of the tea leaves, from garden to a tea cup. We thank everyone who brings the finest tea to brew our bliss!