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Trinitea to Tone up Small Holders Agri Practices, Uplift Produce Quality

Kolkata: The issues in tea exports have forced the 138 year-old Indian Tea Association, formed in 1881 as the representative outfit of British-owned sterling tea companies, to sign MoUs with associations of small growers in a bid for a qualitative breakthrough in the latters field operations.

The exercise which was initiated on a modest scale in April this year, as a joint initiative of ITA and Solidaridad, a global sustainability organisation of the Netherlands, is now gathering momentum. The initiative christened Trinitea aims at sustainable improvement in the quality of the green leaf produced by small holders.

Studies and examples of Sri Lanka and Kenya, Indias main rivals in the export markets have established that, better the quality of the farm produce, better will be the quality of the tea produced and, therefore, better chances of realising higher prices. To sustain the interest of small holders, the worlds oldest organisation of tea producers has modified its rules to admit them or their associations and bought leaf factories (BLFs) as associate members of ITA. As it is known, BLFs procure their requirement of green leaf from small holders.

What are the ground realities of the Indian small grower segment and how do those compare with those in Sri Lanka and Kenya? Small growers have grown remarkably in numbers since the early 1990s, from a few thousand to 2,10,000 in 2018. The output of made tea from their green leaf has grown from about 7-10% to 48% of the total tea production 646 million kg (mkg). Their area under farming has grown from some thousand hectares (ha) to 2,15,886 ha.

In Sri Lanka and Kenya, small growers have a very strong presence. Sri Lanka has an estimated 4,75,000 small holders, who did farming in 1,32,385 ha and the made tea output stood at 213 mkg, which was 70% of that countrys total tea output. The point to be noted is that the number of Sri Lankan small holders is more than twice the Indian figure.