India stands as market leader in Production, consumption as well as global Tea exports.
Indian Teas are globally popular, high quality and loved by many. Highest quality Teas in India are grown in high altitude locations like Darjeeling, Assam and Sikkim including other regions. Darjeeling and Assam contribute to highest quality Teas globally with Assam producing Teas with strong aroma and colour and Darjeeling producing Teas with muscatel taste and mild flavor extremely loved by most Tea consumers. Darjeeling Teas are known to be most expensive across globe also referred as Champagne of Teas. Unlike other Tea producing nations, India has a manufacturing base for both CTC and orthodox tea in addition to green teas. This results in comparatively higher exports of CTC Tea from India. India proudly contributes to around 15 percent of global Tea exports with over 13000 official Tea Estates. Country contributes to Over 30 percent of global Tea production.
Irrespective of the appealing numbers in the growth of India Tea Industry, condition of a Tea worker remains questionable.
Approximately seven lakh workers are officially engaged in the tea industry in just Assam. Women form over 60% of the workforce and are the ones primarily engaged in the indispensable work of leaf plucking. Workers however earn an illegally low daily wage of approx Rs 167 per day according to data gathered by many human right activists.
In addition to this abysmal wage, workers in most plantations do not have access to adequate grocery, water or sanitation facilities on a regular basis. Anaemia and malnutrition are particularly prevalent among the women and it is very common for men engaged in pesticide spraying to contract tuberculosis, other lung complications and loss of vision due to lack of protective gear and safety measures.
The healthcare facilities within and outside the plantations are grossly inadequate and ill-equipped to manage or treat the particular health conditions and vulnerabilities of the workers.
Such conditions have led to the very high maternal and infant mortality rates in the plantations. If these are the circumstances for work on a regular basis, there is little reason to believe that adequate precautions will be taken in times of COVID-19. The industry’s preparedness to deal with an outbreak within such a vulnerable population is, at best, questionable due to the lack of health infrastructure, a lack of quarantine facilities and the availability of testing as well as treatment.
The industry has cited financial crises every time it has been confronted with the reality of workers’ lives, with representatives going so far as to say,
There is a serious need for New generation Tea brands to engage more with many Small Tea Growers mostly women and work consistently on providing maximum support to independent Tea Growers. Contributions from young businesses will make a larger impact on lives of many but this will still not be enough. A lot of work has to be done to improve condition on the ground.
Less is not enough but none is an abuse
*Facts in this article are a mix of multiple published statistics as well as own findings and are not intended to harm any individual or business interests