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MONTHLY BULLETIN FOR NORTH BENGAL - Mr. Pradip Kumar Dutta (Ex. TRA)

Plucking: • Standard plucking should be undertaken at 7-8 days interval. • Plucking should be undertaken close to previous plucking mark to avoid undue creep.Undue creep leads to crop loss. • Black plucking should be undertaken to remove banjhis in case of excessive banjhi formation. • Airy skiff should be considered to remove dantis incase unbroken dantis left on the plucking table of unprunedarea. • Removal of banjhis can also be done quickly and effectively by use of mechanical aid. • Following banjhi removal growth promoters should be sprayed for 2 roundsat15daysinterval. • Mechanical plucking is to be taken care to give the allowance in growth between two successive plucking rounds. • Mechanical harvesting is beneficial for maintaining flat plucking surface for further multiplication of shoots. Leaf handling • Avoid physical damage of the plucked leaves by smooth handling. • Pluckers should be transfer green leaves from hand into the plucking basket as early as possible. • Leaf awaiting transportation shouldnt be exposed to the sun.Keep the collected leaves in bags under shade tree. Excess load must be avoided. • Transfer harvested green leaves on withering trough as early as possible. Plant nutrition: • Second split of fertilizer application should be undertaken to mature tea in rainfree days. • To save the valuable fertilizers from being washed away with rain water as well as through leaching, apply fertilizer during rain free period. • Keep ground weed free prior to application of fertilizer and ensure uniform distribution of fertilizer. • Fertilizer application to young tea should be continued. • Defer application of fertilizer in waterlogged/ flood affected areas till water table recedes. • Foliar NPK mixture at 15 days interval is to be applied particularly on water logged areas during peak period of monsoon. The mixture can be prepared by mixing 1 kg Urea, 625 gm DAP and 875 gm MOP dilutingto100lofwater. Drainage: • Any obstruction in the drain should be removed to maintain free flow of rain water in the drains. Weed control: • Spot spraying of weedicides should be undertaken. • Choice of weedicides will depend on weed flora. • Sticker should be added with Glyphoset. Pest & Disease control: • Pesticide application should be done immediately after plucking. • Mixing of nutrients with pesticides should strictly be avoided. • In order to reduce load of pesticide, emphasis should be given on non-chemical pest control tools like different kinds of traps (light trap, yellow sticky trap etc.). Looper: • Continuous monitoring and scouting tremendously helps in controlling the lopper damage. • Spray Quinalphos 25EC/20 AF @ 1:400 or Bifenthrin 8 SC @ 1:1600 for the early in stars. • In case, caterpillar attained a developed stage (Beyond 2nd instar) apply Emamechtin Benzoate @ 1:2500 (HV) or Flubendiamide @ 1:5000(HV). Red Spider: • Red spider mite generally remains at low level during monsoon due to beating effect of rain. • If there is any dry spell for a week or so, the susceptible patches should be checked. • Spray affected patches with Spiromesifen 240SC or Fenazaquin 10EC or Fenpyroximate 5% EC or Etoxazole 10 SC or Propargite 57EC or Hexythiazox5.45%EC. • Thorough coverage of top, middle and bottom hamper of bushes with spray fluid is necessary to kill the residual population. Helopeltis: • Continuous rains/ cloudy weather with intermittent high temperature are the most conducive condition for rapid buildup of Helopeltispopulation. • Remove the infested shoots by hand from the plucking table before application of pesticide. • After plucking, apply a round of CIB approved insecticide (Bifenthrin 8SC @ 1:1600 HV/Thiomethoxam @ 1:400 HV/Thiacloprid @ 1:1000 (HV)/Clothianidin@1:4500(HV). • If required a follow up round is to be used within 8-10 days with change of chemical. • Always follow barrier spraying method (spray peripheral bushes first followed by spraying of inside bushes). Red slug caterpillar: • Light trapping to destroy the moth. • A thorough round of Quinalphos 25 EC/20 AF @ 1:400 (HV) is to be applied for early in star. • The under surface of leaves are to be targeted with drenching the whole of the canopy. Redrust: • Red rust infection is occurs in inadequate shade, improper soil pH, poor soil fertility particularly potash status, poor drainage etc. • If rusty sporulations in the stem and spots on leaf persist during July, spray Copper oxychloride 50WP @1:400 (HV) or Carbendazim 12% + Mancozeb 63%WP @1:400 (HV) spray two round sat 15 days interval. • Spraying should be directed towards young stems and laterals bearing rusty fructifications. • 1% MOP and urea can be sprayed in the affected sections.

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Time For A New Approach For Sustainability Of The Indian Tea Industry

Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world and India. It is a healthy product having properties that can lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It offers direct employment to over 1.2 million persons in India. Through its forward and backward linkages, another 10 million people derive their livelihood from tea. For these and other reasons, promoting long-term health, wellbeing and the environmental sustainability of our much-beloved tea sector should be a clear priority. Yet the tea sector is experiencing a sustainability crisis, stemming from continuous low prices of tea squeezing the tea producers-large and small. A massive transformation happening in the Indian tea industry Tea industry of India is going through a kind of transformation that no one has witnessed since the commencement of commercial tea plantations in 1834. The consumption of tea in India has continuously gone up from 653 million kilos at the beginning of this century to 1090 million kilos in 2018. It means every year, Indian consumption has gone up by 24.2 million kilos of tea. A study conducted by Deloitte on behalf of the Indian Tea Board summarises that 75 percent of the consumers in rural India now buy packet tea instead of loose tea. Typically speaking such a situation should be considered as most sustainable for the Indian tea industry. Yet, we saw in August 2019, The Indian Tea Association (ITA) made an appeal to the Indian Government seeking its intervention for the revival of the tea industry. The fundamental aspect of the appeal was to fix a minimum price for tea in auctions because Regulated Tea Gardens or the RTGs are facing an imminent crisis of sustained low prices that is lower than the cost of production. Constantly falling tea prices The average auction prices at the turn of the decade were Rupee 110 per kilo of black tea for Assam and now stands at Rupee 148 per kilo at the end of the decade in 2019. Such price increases are not remunerative even if we avoid adjusting this price against inflation. The costs of inputs, wages, fuel and even interest rates have all gone up at a much faster pace than this growth in prices. The RTGs pay provident fund and gratuity and provide housing, ration, firewood and medical benefits. Are Smallholder Tea Growers unaffected by low prices? Often I have come across theories that the smallholder tea growers (STGs) are the primary beneficiary of this growth in production and consumption of tea. Such opinions use the logic that smallholders have young bushes, more productivity, no social and statutory obligations. Therefore they could produce more tea and after processing by the Bought Leaf Factories could sell it at cheaper rates. Unfortunately, this theory is very simplistic and ignores many other dimensions. The STG segment often works with their family labour and takes enormous financial risks. Even when we keep the opportunity costs aside, as per some analysts, the average cost of production for an STG would not be less than Rs 15.00 per kilo of green leaf in Assam. Of course, this amount will be always hotly contested depending on the segment of the industry one belongs. But even if you change the figure one way or another by a few percent, it doesnt change anything. The STGs have an average landholding of less than 1 hectare and roughly produces an annual average of 11000 kilos t0 13500 of green leaf per hectare. From here, the calculation is not that difficult. In other words, tea producers-both RTGs and STGs are both facing challenges of the high cost of production and low price realisation. How does it impact tea brands? Brand market power and the relatively higher margins of leading tea packers and retailers have been the story of the tea sector so far. One can visualise not only in tea but in many other industries that a rising share of total income is earned downstream, with enormous mark-ups and returns for intangibles such as brand. But in the long-run, the starkly contrasting situations of profitable downstream actors and suffering upstream ones may lead a niche segment of consumers as well as shareholders to actively question whether the tea brands they trust support producers economic sustainability?. Such consumer behaviour are increasing abroad and also in a small way in India as well which is reflected by the spate of sustainability certifications undertaken by the domestic tea brands. Climate change and SDGs both get affected by the low prices in tea The economic challenges have a direct correlation to the series of environmental and social challenges faced by the tea industry. Preliminary assessments by the Tea Research Association (TRA) have shown that climate change is impacting the tea producers in a significant way as tea is mainly grown under rain-fed mono-cropping systems and weather conditions determine optimal growth. The research states that unless we take adequate adaptive measures, tea may not survive in Assam plains by 2050. Excessive rains are creating erosion of topsoil, leading to a negative impact on production. Producers have to buy more fertilisers to maintain soil fertility and spray more pesticides to tackle new pests that are emerging. It does not only increase the cost of the tea production but also affecting food safety issues which are one of the top buying concern of most of the packers. On the social front, the north-Indian tea gardens are barely managing to meet the wages and statutory requirements. The amount of informal work is increasing in the tea sector. The social progress of the tea workers community who have a higher aspiration due to access to global information today has been relatively plodding. It is clear that with the kind of non-remunerative pricing prevailing in the tea production segment would make meeting the SDG targets a challenge in the tea regions. Piecemeal efforts on sustainability through certifications For many years, it was felt that certification of the tea producers by third party social auditors under a sustainability code supported and financed by tea packers together with International NGOs would create lasting sustainability in the tea production and trade. Fortunately, such myth doesnt exist anymore even though Indian producers (small and big) have more certificates from these auditors than any other time in history. While certification does provide reputational benefits to the tea packers, there is no business case for the tea producers to get themselves certified through such an expensive third-party auditing process. As we have seen before, contrary to their hopes, creation of a third party auditing layers between the producers and tea packers, doesnt even de-risk the supply chains. Such limitations of the sustainability standards are not unique in the tea sector, but most of the other crops across the world. No wonder, many creators of the sustainability standards are now talking about "reimagining certification". Therefore, the tea producers associations need to increasingly become tea marketing associations as we move ahead in the next decade. The way forward Indian tea industry stakeholders have to acknowledge the grave sustainability concerns, particularly in light of the ongoing price crisis and impending climate crisis. We suggest the following pathways for a discussion amongst the stakeholders. Joint platform of STGs and RTGs and setting up of a fund Trinitea programme was started in 2019 by one of the tea industrys oldest association, Indian Tea Association (ITA) and Solidaridad-one of the worlds oldest sustainability organisations. The programme seeks to provide technical support by experts for the STGs to cope with climate change and link them up with high-value supply chains. For the first time, the STG Associations have joined ITA as associate members under the aegis of the Trinitea programme whose secretariat is based out of ITA. The Trinitea platform should set-up a pre-competitive fund to focus on the collective goals of the tea producers. This fund could come from the donors, brands, industry and the Government. The fund should focus on developing comprehensive climate change adaptation strategies, strengthen the STG associations, facilitate setting up cooperative processing factories, facilitate market access to the STGs, set up a minimum quality framework and improve capacity to enforce social and environmental concerns better. Tea has got the least amount of global climate funding compared to comparable commodities like coffee and cocoa. It ought to change now. Increase the profitability of the tea producers-RTGs and STGs The tectonic shifts in the Indian tea industry have created new challenges for many producers but also opened up new opportunities. In particular, the coming together of STGs and RTGs and the mainstreaming of e-commerce technologies and mobile applications for farmers, provide unique conditions to depart from the traditional tea business model that has become increasingly unsustainable for many tea producers. I suggest that RTGs and STGs under one platform should consider three distinct possibilities. Firstly, the RTGs-STGs should engage with the Indian Government to set up minimum benchmark prices for different grades of manufactured tea to promote the growth of the sector and push exports. The minimum benchmark price should be based on a cost-plus model after undertaking a thorough calculation. Similarly, there should be an engagement for setting up a benchmark pricing for acceptable standard of quality of green leaves. The collective action of the RTGs and STGs would convert tea in India from a buyers product to a sellers product setting new quality and price benchmarks for the domestic markets. Secondly, the RTGs and STGs should consider going beyond the production and manufacturing of tea. But between the producer and the consumer, many entities handle tea, adding and capturing value along the way. It raises the question of whether it is possible to “cut out” some of the middlemen. Yet the significant entities along the value chain all provide essential functions or otherwise add particular value that converts the green leaves into tea bags in our cups. A more appropriate question, then, maybe whether producers themselves can take on more of these steps and accompanying efforts (such as marketing) to create and capture more value? The development of e-commerce and the internet has the potential to reduce market concentration and provide a means for producers to add and obtain more value through more direct-to-consumer sale models. Although currently niche, direct-to-consumer models have the potential to scale with sustained institutional support. It could include aggregating producers for economies of scale, and making the administrative and logistical aspects feasible for many producers. Producer associations could potentially undertake some of the institutional support needed. Of course, the traditional offline markets would remain the key players in the coming years too. But even here, with digital traceability as is offered by the Trinitea programme would create product differentiation and partnerships with global NGOs would allow a different form of brand building for the producers both in domestic markets as well as export markets. Develop palm oil as a plantation crop alongside tea The ecosystem of the STGs and RTGs working together should explore diversifying part of the land to palm oil production. The preliminary studies have shown that tea estates in north-eastern India are suitable for palm oil production. The oil palm cultivation is advantageous for producers due to lack of significant pest problems, no requirement of intensive labour or a massive amount of water and the crop yield brings in high returns. In Andhra Pradesh, the farmers are reportedly earning around 1 lakh per acre. India is the worlds biggest importer of palm oil, spending billions of dollars for its imports from Indonesia and Malaysia. Government of India has already given emphasis to promote Oil Palm cultivation in the North-Eastern States. The funding pattern of the Government of India scheme was 50:50 per cent share in between Government of India and State Government. Since 2015-16 has been revised to 90:10 per cent share in case of North Eastern states. It could provide a significant opportunity to the RTGs as well as STGs for crop diversification and reduce financial losses. If only 20 percent of the tea estate land is allowed to diversify into palm oil, it will lead to freeing up of 48,000 hectares of land for commercial palm oil production. Since Agriculture is a State subject, Assam Government may seriously explore declaring Oil Palm as plantation crop to facilitate captive farming and rapid expansion of Oil Palm cultivation in the country. It will not only save foreign exchange outflow of our country, provide significantly better returns to the producers, but also create the demand-supply balance for tea so essential to push up the quality and price. Conclusion Under current and future market conditions, which include persistent low prices, rising input costs, and devastating climate change effects, even efficient tea producers will struggle to remain viable, and the SDG gap in tea-producing regions of Northern India will grow. Sustainability certifications are not equipped to solve these challenges. The way forward is sustained collective action of STGs and RTGs to set up a pre-competitive platform with a common fund to address climate adaptive tea production, increased role for the premier producers organisations towards marketing value added quality tea in India and abroad and combining palm oil with tea in the same business ecosystem. The prosperity of the tea sector relies on healthy and viable farmers, including smallholders; one thing is for sure-this business-as-usual scenario is not sustainable for the workers, brands or the tea industry.

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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.

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Campaign to make tea popular

Tea growers are planning to kick off a generic campaign on social media platform to promote the consumption of the beverage, targeting the 15-35 year old age bracket. The body has approached the Tea Board of india for support to scale up the campaign on outdoor and other media platforms. However, it may not get any financial support before a new government takes charge in New Delhi. An effort to promote tea comes at a time growers in the organised sectors are struggling to operate profitably because of the rise in production from small growers and tepid demand. Early price trend suggests CTC prices at the auction are down by Rs 20kg from last year, Vivek Geonka, chairman of ITA, said. The association is now trying to educate the small growers to enhance the quality of tea in association with Solidaridad Asia, through a programme called Trinitea. Arjith Raha, secretary-genereal of ITA, said the programme hoped to support the industrys initiative to increase the export of high-quality tea.

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ITA to launch social media campaign to promote tea

The Indian Tea Association (ITA) is looking at launching a social media campaign to target the "young population" in the age bracket of 15-35 years. The campaign will aim to boost tea consumption along "coffee drinkers" which, in turn, will strengthen demand for the beverage and enhance prices. According to Vivek Geonka, Chairman, ITA, the campaign will be rolled out on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. Business line on the sidelines of the launch of Trinitea, a self assesment app for small tea growers to enable compliance locally and internationally The estimated budget for the campaign could be upward of Rs 50 lakh. ITA is also in talks with the Tea Board of India to extend funding support to the campaign, besides holding talks with Central and State governments. Solidaridad Asia, aims to provide year-round training to improve the agronomical, social and environmental practices of small tea growers. Small tea growers account for nearly 47 percent of the countrys tea production, which stood at around 1326 million kg in 2018-19. Under the Trinitea programme, ITA has signed MoUs with major tea grower bodies in Assam & West Bengal. Solidaridad has developed an android-based digital training tool for farmers in local languages to continue training virtuality.

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India Tea Association empowers small holder tea growers of india

India Tea Association (ITA), the premier and the oldiest organisation of tea producers in india, in collaboration with Solidaridad Asia, launched the most beneficial programme. Trinitea for the small holder tea growers of india. Solidaridad Asia is a global sustainability organisation who has extensive experience in providing sustainability and training initiatives for several international projects covering tea as well as other commodities. Trinitea seeks to provide year-round, on-ground training to improve agronomical, social & environment practices of the smallholders. Solidaridad & ITA will implement Trinitam a digital self assessment application, which was also launched today, making the new chapter in the history of the industry. Solidaridad has develeoped android based digital digital training tool for the farmers in the local language, to continue the training virtually. With this international presence and expertise, Solidaridad will also render its support for promoting high quality and safe tea production by smallholders in domestic & international markets. ITA has signed MoUs with the major small Small Tea Growers Association in Assam and West bengal. The United Planters Association of South India (UPASI) and Solidaridad already has a MoU to work towards the sustainability goals in south india. Mr. Vivek Geonka, Chairman, Indian Tea Association, stated, "The Trinitea programme would facilitate the indian tea industry t be future ready for new age customer demands. In recent times several producers in the traditional sector, including ITA memberd have increased their stakes in sourcing green leaf to complement their production. Traceability is a challenge. The ITA being a producers body considers it prudent to associate & integrate the large production base of the small grower sector so that Indian Tea Industry can have an intergrated sustainability agenda"

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Tool for small tea growers

Small tea growers in the country will now get a platform to be complaint with international and national standards and be competitive in the market by improving quality and realising their aspiration for a better proce for their produce. Solidaridad Asia is a global sustainability organisation, which has extensive experience in providing sustainability and training initiatives for several international projects covering tea as well as other commodities. Solidaridad Asia is providing Rs 8 crore for the programme and has developed android based digital training tool for the farmers in the local language, to continue training virtually. Vivek Geonka, the chairman of the association, sai the programme would facilitate the tea industry to be readyy for new age customer demands. In recent times, several producers in the traditional sector, including associations members, have increased their stakes in sourcing green leaf to complement their production. The project aims to engage with the small tea growers to improve their competitivenes, better knowledge sharing in agricultural practices, enhancement of quality, achieving global sustainability standards, and most importantly to benefit society at large. The program will set up a traceability mechanism to enable continous monitoring of source of supply. Shatadru Chattopadhayay, the managing director of Solidaridad Asia, said, "It is our motto to bridge the gap and see to it that small holders get an even playing ground in the global market. We have to ensure that the produce is accepted with high regard nationally as well as internationally. Smallholder sector now accounts for about 60 percent of indias tea production. "

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