The National Small Tea Grower’s Conference 2023, held at the NEDFi House in Guwahati

Guwahati, Sept 29: The National Small Tea Grower’s Conference 2023, held on September 29, 2023, at the NEDFi House in Guwahati, Assam, has emerged as a pivotal event in the Indian tea industry.

Jointly organized by Solidaridad and the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers’ Associations (CISTA), with the support of the All Assam Small Tea Growers Association (AASTA).

All Bodoland Small Tea Growers Association (ABSTGA), Jalpaiguri District Small Tea Growers Association (JDSTGA), and Small Tea Growers Associations of South India, this conference provided a platform for industry leaders, experts, and small tea growers from across India to address the challenges and opportunities in the tea sector.

The National Small Tea Grower’s Conference 2023 proved to be an enlightening and transformative event, shedding a well-deserved spotlight on the indispensable role of Small Tea Growers (STGs) within the Indian tea industry.

This gathering served as a pivotal platform to recognize and celebrate the substantial contributions of STGs to the nation’s tea production landscape. These dedicated individuals and their steadfast commitment to tea cultivation have over the years elevated them to the status of unsung heroes in India’s agricultural tapestry.

The conference not only acknowledged the significant impact of STGs but also delved deep into the multifaceted challenges they confront in their daily endeavors. From the complexities of cultivating and nurturing tea plants to the intricacies of processing and marketing their yields, STGs face an array of obstacles that deserve attention and resolution.

Celebrating the significant contributions of small tea growers to the nation’s tea industry, Mr. Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce & Industry, emphasized the pivotal role they play in India’s tea sector.

He highlighted the importance of promoting organic and GIT teas through brand marketing, leveraging India’s position as a one-stop destination for tea varieties, and targeting high-value markets like Europe, the United States, and the Middle East.

Mr. Goyal also stressed the need for sustainable solutions to address climate change challenges and encouraged innovation across the entire tea supply chain. He expressed confidence that this conference would catalyze positive transformations within the industry and enhance the livelihoods of valued tea growers.

Dr. Shatadru Chattopadhyay, Managing Director of Solidaridad Network Asia,shared an extensive and enlightening perspective on the remarkable journey of Small Tea Growers (STGs) in the Indian tea industry.

He underscored the significance of this contribution, stating,”In our journey to understand the dynamics of the tea industry, it becomes increasingly evident that small tea growers are the unsung heroes of this story.

They have not only managed to carve a niche for themselves but have also greatly contributed to the overall tea production in India. Their dedication, often amidst daunting challenges, is a testament to their commitment to this age-old craft. The conference provided a unique opportunity to shed light on their extraordinary efforts and the critical role they play in the industry’s success.”

Mr. Prabhat Bezbaruah, former Chairman of the Tea Board, emphasized the importance of supporting STGs and empowering them for quality tea production.

He noted, “The conference served as a platform for meaningful discussions and shared insights into the challenges faced by STGs. It’s crucial for the organized sector and government bodies to support STGs in their journey towards quality tea production.”

Mr. Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty, Chairman of CISTA, echoed this sentiment, stating, “The small tea growers’ segment is one of the most revolutionary and dynamic elements in the Indian tea industry. We must ensure their sustainable development and empower them with the knowledge and resources required to produce high-quality teas.”

Mr. ­Baidyanath Borah, a small tea grower from Tinsukia Assam expressed, “We are at the forefront of tea cultivation, but we lack the necessary support and knowledge to enhance our product quality. The conference has shed light on the challenges we face and the potential for improvement.”

Ms. Rina Daimari, a small tea grower from Udalguri, Assam shared her perspective, “We want to produce better quality teas, but we need guidance and resources. The conference has shown us the path to achieving higher quality and better prices for our teas.”

The conference served as a vital platform for farmers and industry leaders to address key challenges faced by Small Tea Growers (STGs). These challenges include maintaining economic threshold limits (ETL) for sustainable tea production, knowledge gaps among growers, climate adaptation concerns, and the production of common teas exceeding market demand.

A central theme was the urgent call for quality improvement in tea production to ensure the industry’s long-term viability, tackling issues of oversupply, rising production costs, and supply-demand dynamics. STGs, who could contribute over 60% of India’s and Assam’s total tea production in the coming decade, must focus on enhancing their produce’s quality for industry sustainability.

In summary, the National Small Tea Grower’s Conference 2023 emphasized the essential role of small tea growers in the Indian tea industry, their challenges, and the need for knowledge empowerment. It called for increased cooperation and support from organized sectors and government agencies to improve agricultural practices.

The core message revolved around the imperative of quality improvement in tea production to address oversupply, production costs, and supply-demand challenges. These takeaways reflect a collective commitment to secure the tea industry’s long-term sustainability.

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