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Kangra tea facing identity crisis, says Jairam

Sujay Mehdudia

Palampur (Himachal Pradesh): Lamenting that the famous Kangra tea was facing a major “identity and existence crisis”, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Power Jairam Ramesh said over the weekend that the focus would now shift to growing green orthodox tea and using Geographical Indications (GI) to market it as a pure organic green tea brand in markets like Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt and even Pakistan.

Speaking at a function organised by the Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology (IHBT) in the presence of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Mr. Ramesh informed that an application for a GI had been filed with the European Union.

The last 15 years had witnessed a dramatic fall in production and only small growers are left in the fray with an average holding of around 0.6 acres. Unlike Assam, Darjeeling and southern States, there are no tea estates here, but only small holdings.

Mr. Ramesh said there had been no re-plantation in Kangra tea farmlands and the plants were 80 to 100 years old with very low yield.

The Union Minister said India produces 950 million kg of tea and Kangra accounts for only 0.12 per cent of that. Mr. Ramesh announced that after his consultations with Mr. Dhumal it has been decided that the Tea Board of India would provide subsidy to the growers for re-plantation process, in obtaining organic certification and adopting new technologies including mechanisation.

He also announced that Kangra tea growers would be provided a free stall at the India International Tea Festival in Kochi from February 19 to 21 so that they are able to exhibit their varieties to prospective buyers from all over the world.

Mr. Dhumal said Himachal Pradesh would provide full cooperation to the Tea Board and the Commerce Ministry for the revival of Kangra tea and urged the IHBT and Agriculture University scientists to come out with new varieties which give good yield and have less gestation period.

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