The century-old tea industry in Tripura, which was nearly destroyed by the three-decade-old insurgency, is back on its feet with the restoration of peace and harmony.
All 58 tea gardens in the state now operate at the optimum level producing one crore kg of tea per year, Tea Association of India secretary P K Sarkar said.
Painting a bright future for the state’s tea industry, Sarkar said, “6,400 hectares of land are now under cultivation while the total granted area for tea cultivation is 14,000 hectares.”
Sarkar thinks that if substantial capital investment is made in the industry, the state will scale up the list of 14 tea-producing states. Tripura at present holds the fifth position after Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Tea production in the state is also supplemented by small growers, who mostly grow tea in small holdings measuring one hectare or more and add to the production.
“There are also hundreds of small gardens, either privately run or run by some organisations. The Tripura Tea Development Corporation, a state government organisation, runs 14 gardens. An estimated 20,000 people are employed in small gardens”, Sarkar said.
The tea gardens were the target of the insurgent organisations like the National Liberation Front of Tripura and the All-Tripura Tiger Force.
As the tea gardens are mostly located near the 856-mile-long Indo-Bangla border, it was an easy prey for the ultras, who killed or kidnapped tea garden officials workers at will and returned to their to their bases in either Syllhat or Chittagong.
“Under these circumstances, it was not simply possible to run the gardens. The employees did not agree to work in the gardens,” Shantibrata Chakraborty, the vice-president of the state unit of the Tea Association of India, said.
Tripura tea is now exported to Iran, Russia and America, Chakraborty said adding that in August next green tea would be exported to Banga Sammelan at Houston in America..