| July 19, 2019

As organic tea market expands, famers remain high and dry

In his Thamel-based tea shop, trader Chiranjivi Dahal shows a type of tea that costs Rs 500,000 per kg. The tea was produced in Ilam in 2006. In his Thamel-based tea shop, trader Chiranjivi Dahal shows a type of tea that costs Rs 500,000 per kg. The tea was produced in Ilam in 2006.

ILAM, May 28: The market of organic tea produced in eastern Nepal is expanding not only in India but also in several other parts of the world. With this, the tea prices are on the rise. However, the growth fails to excite farmers as they are getting the same low price despite the rise in rate of the tea.

Time and again, farmers in the east have taken to streets lamenting that the prices of the leaves are too low even to cover the cost of the production. On the other hand, even traders admit that the farmers are not getting their fair share of reward.

Upon learning about the low rate of green leaves given to the farmers, Chirinjivi Dahal, a tea trader in Kathmandu expresses surprise and stressed that the tea factories must address the grievances of the farmers.

"We buy tea from factories in higher rate every year and of course we charge more than that while selling it. But why are the farmers are not getting good prices for their productions? It's unfair!" he commented. He added that there's gap between demand and supply of organic tea. He believes that the country can far expand the market of organic tea. "We are actually in need of much more quantity of tea," he added.

Dahal who's into the tea business since the last five years stated that there's no problem in selling here or exporting organic tea. Tea worth Rs 30,000 per kg and higher rates are also easily sold.

Dahal purchases tea from Ilam, Panchthar, Dhankuta and Sindhupalchowk, among other districts and sends the products to Russia, the USA and European countries, besides selling them to locals and foreigners here.

"I had done a good research before opening this tea shop. In the year-long research, several aspects of tea business came to the fore," Dahal informed. According to him, Nepal still lags behind China in terms of tea quality as well as price. Even the best tea in Nepal is not still getting the price it deserves due to the lack of recognition. The tea produced in Nepal could get way high prices once they are well marketed, he said.

We should further improve both in quality and branding. We already have some best tea produced here, he said. "For instance, look at this type of tea. It was produced in 2006 in Jasbire of Ilam. Can you imagine the price of this tea?"

Quite surprisingly, he revealed that the tea costs Rs 500,000 per kg. He added that there's no need to get shocked as tea in China fetch higher prices. "We can produce more of this quality of tea that is worth half million rupees per kg. Tea produced in Yunan of China has taken huge global market," he said.

Tea industrialists also stress on the need of better advertisement and recognition of Nepali organic tea. In lack of coordination and advertisement, many factories end up in loss while trading tea, they say. Some tea factory owners of southern Ilam lamented that their tea did not get proper market.

However, Dahal seems to doubt it. Since all the factories have their own buyers in different countries, there should not have been questions of unsold stuff, he said. "It's hard for me to believe it. They have connections with dealers in different states. Many of them are unable to supply tea to us because they give priority to export," said Dahal.

Dahal further stated that 80 percent of customers who come to his tea shop in Jhamshikhel of Kathmandu are Nepalis. But in Thamel's shop, 80 percent of customers are foreigners. "So, that's the case. Organic tea has indeed high demand. We sell tea at such high rates but it is hard to believe that the farmers don't get their due reward," he said, adding that his own study had however shown that the farmers are not among the beneficiaries of expanding tea business.

The problem is that there's no uniformity in the rate of the tea leaves. Factories set rates and farmers have to accept it. Similarly, there's lack of quality confirmation mechanism as well, according to Dahal.