Kerala: Fall in tea leaves’ price hits small-scale growers

The prices of green tea leaves had touched Rs 32 per kg last November-December.


IDUKKI: Tea growers in Idukki are in deep trouble as the price of green leaves has nose-dived from Rs 16 per kilogram to Rs 8-10 in one month. The fall has come at a time when farmers are enjoying a good yield following heavy rain and favourable weather conditions. Farmers alleged that the influx of green tea leaves from Tamil Nadu and Wayanad, facilitated by agents, is the prime reason for the price slump. “As a result, factories are hesitant to procure tea leaves from local farmers,” they said.
Small-scale Tea Growers Association state president Y C Stephen said factories were not paying the prices fixed by the Tea Board to growers. “The minimum support price fixed by the Tea Board for the current month is Rs 13.31, but the farmers are getting only Rs 8-10,” he said.
The prices of green tea leaves had touched Rs 32 per kg last November-December. “However, as middlemen arranged tea leaves in bulk quantities from Kenya and Sri Lanka citing the number of tea plants lost in Assam in last year’s floods, the price plunged to Rs 12 within a month,” said Stephen. He said Idukki has 22,000 small tea growers, including 15,000 who are registered.
“A labourer should be given Rs 650 per day to pluck 30kg of green tea leaves. A kilogram of tea dust fetches Rs 300-350. Since small-scale farmers can’t meet the expense for the labour and they pluck leaves with the help of their family members,” said Stephen. He said farmers have been demanding a minimum support price of Rs 22 per one kilogram of green tea leaves to overcome the crisis.