> Development > Commerce  
Adip Kumar Phukan
Date of Publish: 2016-06-01

Assam needs two more tea auction centres

 

  • Declare tea as national drink
  • Assam tea industry has trodden on its 193 year old journey.
  • Why only one tea auction centre for assam despite producing 620million kg of tea every year?

 

The history of Assam tea industry goes as long back as 193 years. The finding of Assam tea is attributed to Charles Robert Bruce who is solely responsible for its finding while he was travelling to Gargaon in Sivsagar in the1823. However, it was from 1834 that institutional research on tea plantation had started and tea estates began to be formed. The British East India Company patronized the efforts of Robert Bruce. Under the supervision of two experts Nathaniel Wallich and James Gordon a seven-member tea committee was formed. On 8 May, 1938 Charles Alexander had sent 350 pounds tea produced in Assam in 46 tea chests to England. After having proved that Assam tea is indeed better in quality than that of Chinese tea, in the month of February in 1839 the East India Company formed Assam Tea Company with a capital of 5 lacs pound thus pioneering the path of  the springing up of tea industry in Assam. The second tea company in Assam is Jorhat Tea Company. The first tea estate formed by the Jorhat Tea Company in 1842 with a capital of 60 thousand pounds was Numaligarh Tea Estate. In its long history of 193 years, 850 large scale tea estates and already formed 1,14,920 small scale tea estates have the highest contribution to the overall tea production in the country. 52% of overall tea production is produced in Assam. The lack of required attention to Assam tea industry from the Central Government, however, is particularly regrettable. When it comes to patronizing tea industry both State and Central governments have shown their indifference, no remarkable efforts are seen to promote tea industry not even in the interest of the state and the nation.

In this regard the matter that demands highest attention is hiking the price of Assam tea. The market price of Assam tea is determined by the Tea Auction Centre. Tea production every year in Assam is about 620 million kg.  The figures of tea production in various states are as such- in West Bengal 315 million kg, in Tamil Nadu 174 million kg and 62 million kg in Kerala. Assam being the only state responsible for the highest production of tea as much as 52% in the country has only one Tea Auction Centre whereas West Bengal producing half of Assam’s total production has three Tea Auction Centers. Tamil Nadu in South India has three Tea Auction centres that produces 174 million kg of tea. Assam has only one Tea Auction centre in Guwahati in spite of its production of 620 million kg; on the other hand, producing 62 million kg tea Kerala has one Tea Auction Centre in Kochi. The open question now is-Assaam, despite being the very first state to have a tea estate and producing as much as 52% of overall tea production why is it that Assam is still lagging behind- is it due to conspiracy or flawed leadership ? It’s high time we openly discussed these matters. Following 132 years of tea production in Assam the only Tea Auction Center was established in Guwahati in 1970. Yet surprisingly long back in 1886 first Tea Auction Center was established in Calcutta.

 

Sl. No

Auction Centre

Auction Organizer

Year of

Establishment

1

Kolkata

Calcutta Tea Traders Association (CTTA)

1886

2

Kochi

Tea Trade Association of Cochin (TTAC)

1947

3

Coonoor

Coonoor Tea Trade Association (CTTA)

1963

4

Guwahati

Guwahati Tea Auction Centre

1970

5

Siliguri

Siliguri Tea Auction Centre (STAC)

1976

6

Coimbatore

Tea Trade Association of Coimbatore (TTAC)

1980

7

Coonoor

Tea Serve

2003

8

Jalpaiguri

North Bengal Tea Auction Centre

2005

 

TWO MORE TEA AUCTION CENTERS NEEDED IN ASSAM

Of the total 620 million kg tea production in Assam, 92% is produced in Brahmaputra valley while the other 8% is produced in Barak valley. About 163 million kg tea is sold at the Tea Auction Centre in Guwahati. The most baffling question - of the total 620 million kg tea production, about 457 million kg tea is not sold through the Tea Auction Center in Guwahati - why? Of the 457 million kg tea, 105 million kg is sold at Kolkata Tea Auction Center. What happens to the rest of 352 million kg tea? It is sold in the open market of course. We would propose that two more Tea Auction Centers be established in Assam and the tea produced in Assam should all be sold exclusively through Tea Auction Centers.

Upper Assam districts- Golaghat, Jorhat, Sivsagar, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia produce more than 400 million kgs of Tea annually i.e. 70% of Assam Tea produced  in these five districts are more than  Kenya's production, more than Sri Lanka's production, more than entire production in South India, more than the prouction in whole of West Bengal. Jorhat is known as the ‘Tea City’ of Assam. it is central to all the five major tea growing districts of upper Assam. an Auction centre at Jorhat will also be easily accessible for tea factories of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. Small tea growers are concentrated in the above-mentioned five districts. Therefore, it will be very convenient for those who set-up their one small processing units. World's largest tea research centre (Tocklai) is in Jorhat. The Assam agriculture university is in Jorhat. Assam's total production was about 215 million kgs in 1970- the year in which Guwahati tea auction centre (GTAC) was established. In 2015 Assam total production touched 622 million kgs. This shows Assam's total tea production in 2015 was about three times the total production in 1970.

Apart from the large scale production of tea in Sonitpur, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji districts small scale tea estates are also gradually springing up. There is logic behind asking for a Tea Auction Centre in Lakhimpur too. Following the completion of Bogibeel Bridge it will then be possible to sell the tea from Dibrugarh district as well so that small scale tea farmers can also be part of the Tea Auction centre mechanism. It has to be managed that way. In order to give the economy of the state a certain momentum the entire production of tea has to be sold through the Tea Auction centers within Assam. Apart from contributing to the National Income, it will boost the plethora of employment possibilities in the region. In the interest of the state and its development, it’s high time our political leaders broke their inertia and took action. Established in 1970 Tea Auction Center in Guwahati is now 46 years old. In accordance with the auction system of the world, the tea auction center in Guwahati should be fully regulated through E-Auction so that buyers from various countries can actually take part in the process sans coming to Guwahati. The topic of utmost importance, however, is no particular price for Assam tea has been determined yet. Be it inside or outside the country no worthwhile steps are taken to give a certain importance to Assam tea. It is not less surprising that Assam tea is yet to be recognized as a ‘brand’. Despite having a long-standing history of 193 years CTC tea of Assam has not yet been registered as Geographical Indication or GI. Although, ‘Orthodox’ tea has been tagged as GI, it could have earned more importance in the international market, had it been from Europe. As a consequence, the price of tea in Assam per kg in the Tea Auction Centre in Guwahati is 132.56 Rs whereas at the Darjeeling Tea Auction Centre the price of Darjeeling tea is 317.76 Rs per kg. Darjeeling tea appears to be more familiar than Assam tea in spite of being the state with highest production of tea.

DECLARE TEA AS A NATIONAL DRINK

The National Drink of Pakistan is sugarcane juice, Japan’s sake, Russia’s vodka, Scotland’s whisky, Jamaica’s rum and Argentina’s mate. Ever wondered what could be India’s National Drink? In response to this question, it has been widely discussed that tea be declared as the National Drink of India. Before assigning something as a national symbol it has to have its originality and uniqueness in relation to the country. More than China and Vietnam, the tea production in India has unique characteristics. In addition with states like Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala now Karnataka, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Sikkim, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Bihar also have their ways paved for production of tea. It is striking that India being the second largest nation for its production of tea has now to compete against China, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Vietnam. In the world market for tea Indian tea has to be prominently patronized. India’s export of tea in the international level is 12% among all. Interestingly, until 1989 India exported maximum tea. Within the organized industry sector in terms of employment tea industry is one of the largest. In the Indian tea industry 50% workers appear to be women. Tea industry here is agriculture-based and inherently related to rural economy. Covering vast areas with greenery tea plants have considerably managed to maintain organic and ecological balance all throughout. What is it that refrains us from considering tea as the most important drink or taking steps for that matter even after the doctors’ recommendation of it as a remarkable health drink? A recent study has it that eight cups of tea a day can prevent heart diseases, increase brain power and longitivity. In India, after water the most available drink is tea. Tea can also account for the nation’s unity and integrity. On the basis of these arguments we propose that tea should be declared as National Drink of India thereby giving the economy a new momentum for advancement and commercial importance. Not only as a National Drink but also as a health drink tea is well familiar all over the world. The propagation of awareness about tea as a health drink can be crucial for challenging the consumption of anti-social and addictive substances. If tea is declared as a National Drink, its domestic usage will also be certainly increased. The current data is utterly pathetic. In India presently per capita estimation of tea is 730 gm, in America 2.10 kg, in Russia 1.64 kg, in Sri Lanka 1.39, in Iraq 1.03 and in New Zealand 1 kg.  Declaring tea as a National Drink will help increase domestic usage and production eventually leading to strengthening India’s position in the world market. The whole solution of it will however be possible only when the Central Government considers it with a vast perspective.

Assam tea is pride and identity for its people. In Assam, tea is a culture apart from being a product.  The first Indian tea farmer was Maniram Dewan from Assam. Associated with the Independence Movement of the country and in the interest of a future of great labor power, the tea entrepreneurs of Assam should be given a helping hand for which the Assam Government has to take crucial efforts into declaring tea as National Drink of the country.

Adip Kumar Phukan

( Adip Kumar Phukan is a veteran journalist, political commentator, economic analyst, columnist and a writer based in Guwahati. He can be contacted at 9707024615) 

Translated from Assamese by Daisy Barman. 

(Daisy Barman is a scribbler and translator. She can be reached at maa.daisy@gmail.com )

 

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