The fading scent of Kangra tea worries growers in lead-up to Lok Sabha elections - Hindustan Times
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The fading scent of Kangra tea worries growers in lead-up to Lok Sabha elections

By, Palampur
May 31, 2024 07:36 PM IST

As the election season nears its conclusion, stakeholders await acknowledgment and commitment from political leaders towards the revival and promotion of Kangra tea

Despite its historical significance and economic potential, the revival of Kangra tea has been conspicuously absent from the election campaign this Lok Sabha election.

Once popular in Europe, Central Asia, the Karga tea has lost favour and production has plummeted in recent years (HT File)
Once popular in Europe, Central Asia, the Karga tea has lost favour and production has plummeted in recent years (HT File)

Kangra tea, known for its distinct flavour, not finding a place in the political discourse has raised concerns among locals and industry stakeholders who have long-awaited the government’s focused attention to revive the industry.

As the election season nears its conclusion, stakeholders await acknowledgment and commitment from political leaders towards the revival and promotion of Kangra tea, a cornerstone of the region’s heritage and economy. According to data shared by Tea Board of India officials in Palampur, 2,310 hectares of land is under tea cultivation on paper. However, only around 1,400 hectares is currently being used.

The Karga tea has lost favour and production has plummeted in recent years. The annual production hovers at around 9 to 10 lakh kg. That, however, is far less than 17 to 18 lakh kg produced a few decades ago.

The stakeholders say only concerted efforts can revive the industry and make it a viable business for small-scale growers. Notably, people often abandon tea cultivation, as the land holdings get smaller from generation to generation, making it a non-profitable business for them.

Kangra Valley Small Tea Planters Association president Suksham Butail emphasised on the need to revive tea factories to rekindle the interest of growers. “The government had opened four cooperative tea factories but three of them have been closed and now only one is functional, and we are uncertain about its future too. The government should focus on reviving these tea factories,” he stated.

A gateway to tourism

Butail also highlighted the potential of tea tourism to attract visitors to the region.

“There is significant potential to promote tea through tourism. The government should allow small growers to use specific land areas for tourism purposes, which would help promote our tea. Although we have provided our suggestions repeatedly, they have remained only on paper. The time has come for Kangra tea to receive strong political attention,” he added.

Once popular in Europe, Central Asia and Australia, and even Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Karga tea has lost favour and production has plummeted in recent years.

A senior official at the Tea Board of India, Palampur, said the state and central governments have supported the tea industry but there are still some areas where a strong political intervention is needed.

“Unlike states such as Assam and West Bengal, Himachal lacks policies on tea and tourism integration. There is a suitable government land that can be leased out to investors and converted into tea gardens that will promote Kangra tea,” the official said.

He also highlighted that the government support is needed to upgrade the mini-tea factories, which were set up with the financial support of Tea Board of India, for their upgradation.

Kangra tea is known for its unique aroma and traces of fruity flavour. Milder than the Darjeeling tea in terms of flavour, it has more body and liquor. The tea is grown 900-1,400 m above sea level on the slopes of the Dhauladhar mountain range in the western Himalayas.

Dr Jameson, then superintendent of the Botanical Tea Gardens, had in 1849 spotted the region’s potential for tea cultivation. Being one of India’s smallest tea regions makes Kangra green and black tea more exclusive.

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