Article from Hindu – Fall in tea prices hits small farmers
Small growers in Nilgiris have been realising prices that are less than the cost of production; Farmers in Tamil Nadu’s main tea growing region have been staging a hunger protest for more than two weeks now demanding ‘reasonable prices’
Small tea farmers in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiris district have been hit by a drop in tea leaf prices over the last few months.
Small and micro farmers in the Nilgiris harvest almost 40 crore kilogram (kg) of tea leaves annually and this year the production has risen by almost one crore kg, said H.N. Sivan, promoter of Nilgiris Nectar Organic Farmer Producers’ Organization.
Growers got on average ₹20.99 for a kg of green leaf during the COVID pandemic (August 2020). But the prices started declining gradually and in August 2022, their crop fetched on average ₹14.38 per kg. The base price fixed by the Tea Board India this August for the Nilgiris farmers was only ₹14.54 a kg, said K. Manivannan, secretary of the Naaku Betta Badagar Welfare Association.
Growers who supply to a couple of INDCO factories received ₹11 – ₹15 a kg. And the average price that they got in the market was about ₹12. The small growers had been staging a hunger protest for more than two weeks now demanding “reasonable prices”, Mr. Manivannan added.
Mr. Sivan and Mr. Manivannan said small tea growers, numbering almost one lakh in the Nilgiris, were realising prices that were less than the cost of production for almost two decades now. But, the situation was getting worse, affecting farmers’ livelihoods. The average cost of production was estimated to be ₹22.29 a kg.
“Labour and input costs are increasing every year. But the price for tea leaves is not,” observed Mr. Sivan.
C. Shreedharan, president of the United Planters Association of Southern India, said that globally and in India there was excess supply of teas, with output growth outpacing growth in consumption. He said it was important to encourage exports by promoting value addition and access to emerging markets.
Why are the small tea growers of Nilgiris in distress and how can their problem be resolved?
Title – Hard times for Nilgiri’s small tea growers as market prices of their produce plummet
Prices at which the tea growers sell their produce to wholesalers has dropped to a dismal low of Rs.11 to Rs. 14 a Kg in recent years. At the same time, the input prices have continued to rise resulting in the cost of producing tea to reach a level of Rs.22 a Kg. This means, a farmer makes a loss of Rs. 10 for each Kg of tea he sells. If this situation persists for long, the Niligiri tea farmers will confront penury in the near future. Tamil Nadu which often boasts about its thriving tea farming hub at Niligiri will see its tea gardens abandoned by its owners.
No doubt, the anger and the frustration of the tea growers have reached a boiling point. They are agitating with all their force to make the government to take measures to mitigate their distress. Among other measures, the farmers want the government to explore new export markets for their produce.
C. Shreedharan, president of the United Planters Association of Southern India, ascribes the fall in tea prices to an increase in tea output both in India and abroad. He feels, value addition to raw tea could increase the sales price to some extent narrowing the gap between the production coat and the sales price. He is convinced that vigorous marketing drive to reach new buyers overseas could also increase tea sales at remunerative prices.