Himachal Pradesh recorded Kangra tea, an orthodox variety close to Darjeeling tea, production of 10,01,419 kg in last fiscal and the government aims to revive the British-era tea industry, State Agriculture Minister Virender Kanwar said on Sunday.
At present, 2,310 hectares come under tea cultivation in foothills of Dhauladhar in Dharamsala, Shahpur, Nagrota Bagwan, Palampur, Jaisinghpur, Baijnath and Joginder Nagar areas.
CSK Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University in Palampur has planted tea saplings in its research stations to access the scope of tea cultivation in non-traditional areas of the state.
Orchard integration of tea is also being explored towards doubling farmers’ income and offsetting area loss.
The state government will organise tea festivals in prominent tourist places like Manali and Shimla to promote Kangra tea among visiting tourists, said the Minister.
The government organised a tea fair in Palampur for the first time in December 2021 in which 400 tea growers participated.
An additional area of 5.6 hectare was also brought under fresh plantation in 2021-22 and a target has been fixed to bring additional 100 hectare under the commercial tea cultivation in five years.
According to Kanwar, the tea industry has contributed Rs 20 crore to the state economy in the last fiscal by providing direct and indirect employment to nearly 5,000 people.
The Kangra tea is mostly exported to countries through the dealers at Kolkata. Only 10 per cent of the tea is marketed within the state, while the remaining goes to the Kolkata auction centres.
Nearly 4,000 kg of Kangra tea was exported mainly to Germany, Britain, Russia and France in 2021-22 and a target has been fixed to export 20 per cent of the tea in coming years.
There are around 5,900 tea farming families with the average land holding of 95 per cent of them less than 0.5 hectare. There are 21 big planters, having an average land holding of more than 10 hectare.
The Agriculture department has provided one lakh tea plants to the growers at the nominal rate of Rs 2 per plant. A target has been fixed to raise 1.5 lakh plants in tea nursery in Palampur in this fiscal to bring more area under commercial plantation.
The average sale price of Kangra tea is Rs 160 per kg in Kolkata during 2021, while Rs 400 per kg within Himachal Pradesh.
Tea cultivation was introduced in and around the Palampur foothills in the Kangra valley in the mid-19th century.
The Camellia tea, planted by the British in 1849, grew so popular that tea from Kangra won a gold medal at an exhibition in London in 1886 for its superb flavour and quality.
However, a major earthquake that hit the area in 1905 destroyed a large number of tea gardens and tea factories. Thereafter, most of the European planters left, handing over their tea estates to Indian people.
Lifting of trade barriers, which allowed other countries to push their supplies at a much lower cost, adversely affected the local tea industry.