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Munnar tea plantation on verge of lockout

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NewsGram Staff Writer

Thiruvananthapuram: With the daylong meeting of the ‘plantation labour committee’ (PLC) failing to resolve the impasse over the demand of Rs 500 as daily wage for plantation workers in Thiruvananthapuram, the trade unions declared an indefinite strike from Monday.

Over 10,000 women plantation workers from the Kannan Devan Hills Plantations (KDHP) Company Private Limited owned Munnar tea plantations went on a strike earlier this month. However, their demand of 20 per cent bonus was accepted after nine days of strike.

At that time, the talks was held under Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and it was assured that their demand of raising their daily wage from Rs 231 to Rs 500 would be considered at the PLC meeting.

Post the marathon nine-hour-long meeting on Saturday, state Labour Minister Shibu Baby John told reporters that the Association of Planters Kerala (APK) did not accept the trade unions’ demanded of Rs 500 as daily wage.

“The state government has put up some suggestions before the APK. They said they will look into it and return for the next round of talks scheduled for Tuesday evening,” said John.

Meanwhile, the trade unions announced that they will initiate an indefinite strike from Monday as the women workers in Munnar are firm on their demand of Rs 500 as daily wage.

A male plantation worker told reporters, “the men would also join the indefinite strike from Monday. We are waiting for the return of our women leaders from the capital city and tomorrow (Sunday), we will meet as many employees as possible to launch our strike from Monday.”

An APK representative terming the situation as “most unfortunate” said, “we will have no other option but to declare a lockout, if they (unions) insist on Rs 500.”

(With inputs from IANS)

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Why Tea is so popular Worldwide? India’s Tea Genome sequencing project will not replicate work done by Chinese

Genome mapping helps to decode the genetic controls linked to different characters of tea that govern its yield, quality and other attributes

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Tea. Pixabay
  • Genome is the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism
  • Chinese researchers announced on May 1 they have successfully sequenced the genome of the evergreen shrub Camellia sinensis, known as tea tree
  • Genome mapping helps to decode the genetic controls linked to different characters of tea that govern its yield, quality, and other attributes

Kolkata, June 5, 2017: India, which recently launched its tea genome sequencing project, is not going to replicate the work done by the Chinese but instead aims to develop climate-smart tea plantations with the genomic boost, an official here said.

We launched the project in the first week of April and a Chinese group published a paper on their work a month later. Many are of the opinion that India has, perhaps, missed the bus. We are not replicating the work that China has done. Our target cultivar is Assam type (Camellia assamica) and that is Indian-origin tea, Biswajit Bera, Director (Research) at Tea Board of India, Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry said on Monday.

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Once the project is completed, we are going to have a climate smart tea plantation wherein we will target development of tea cultivars according to our own need, he said.

In a study that offers clues why tea is so popular worldwide, Chinese researchers announced on May 1 they have successfully sequenced the genome of the evergreen shrub Camellia sinensis, known as tea tree, for the first time, Xinhua reported.

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The genus Camellia contains over 100 species, but the most popular varieties of tea, including black tea, green tea, Oolong tea, white tea, and chai, all come from the leaves of the evergreen shrub Camellia sinensis.

India’s tea genome mapping project involves six institutes — three Tea Research Institutes, National Tea Research Foundation (NTRF), ICAR, CSIR. This exercise will help in the development of superior tea cultivars using genome sequence information, Bera said.

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This will be a two-phased programme. We will generate huge genetic resource information which will be co-related with field data specifying different traits or characters. Like, for Darjeeling, we are targetting the disease blister blight. For different areas of tea plantation in India, we are targetting different traits which will be co-related with this genome sequencing. In addition, the genetic data will also aid in developing package and practices to overcome adverse climatic stress, Bera said.

Genome is the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism. Genome mapping helps to decode the genetic controls linked to different characters of tea that govern its yield, quality and other attributes.

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Bera, a botanist, said there are three main tea varieties: India tea (Assam), China tea and hybrid tea.

Bera was speaking at a workshop on ‘Sustainable Development of Tea-Gardens and Issues of Urban Wetland’ organised here by IIT Kharagpur and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Around 40 students and faculty from both institutions, who are jointly researching the tea gardens in North Bengal, participated in the event. (IANS)

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Tea from Britain Booming in China, the Drink’s Birthplace

For three centuries, countries in Asia and Africa have been quenching Britons' thirst for tea, supplying dried leaves worth millions of pounds every year

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An employee packs boxes of tea at the production line at Taylors of Harrogate's tea packaging facilities in Harrogate, England, Aug. 30, 2016. Image source: VOA

Ji Mengyu sinks into a soft chair with her cup of tea to the sound of tinkling teaspoons and light chatter. The opulently decorated Victorian tea salon is quintessentially British, something straight out of Downton Abbey. Except it’s in Beijing.

The 25-year-old HR professional is one of a growing number of Chinese who are looking past their country’s ancient tea traditions in favor of imported British blends. For Ji, the tea has an aura of luxury and quality, and gives her a sense of partaking in the posh British culture popularized globally by TV shows and fashion brands.

“I think British people’s traditional customs and culture have a kind of classical style,” says Ji, who says she’s inspired by TV shows like Downton Abbey, but also Sherlock Holmes and Game of Thrones.

For three centuries, countries in Asia and Africa have been quenching Britons’ thirst for tea, supplying dried leaves worth millions of pounds every year. Now, that trend is showing some signs of reversing. China and Hong Kong in particular, are seeing a surge in appetite for British tea blends – some of which are made with leaves from China itself, an example of the twists in trade that the globalization of tastes can create.

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Upscale tea blends from storied British companies like Twinings, Taylors of Harrogate and Hudson & Middleton occupy increasingly more space on shelves in Chinese supermarkets, restaurant menus and online shops.

Tea houses serving British afternoon tea have sprouted up in the bigger cities in China. Five years ago, Annvita English Tea Company managed ten tea houses around China, serving imported blends and pastries in British-style tea rooms. The number has since grown ten-fold, with more planned.

“It fits the taste of people who want to pursue a higher quality of life,” says Li Qunlou, general manager at AnnVita English Tea House in Sanlitun in Beijing.

As a result, British tea companies selling premium blends have seen their exports to China and Hong Kong skyrocket.

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In the first five months of 2016, British tea exports to Hong Kong nearly tripled in value compared with two years earlier. They doubled to the rest of mainland China, data from the U.K. HM Revenue & Customs show.

Shipments to China and Hong Kong only make up 7 percent of total British tea exports, but the share is growing quickly.

Some of these deliveries come from Harrogate, a small town in northern England that is the home to Taylors of Harrogate. The fourth generation family-owned company has been selling tea to China for more than 10 years. In the past three years, sales have more than doubled every year, albeit from a low starting point.

“China produces nearly one half of the world’s tea, so on the surface you would think that there is a limited opportunity for Taylors of Harrogate,” says Matthew Davies, Head of International Sales at Taylors of Harrogate.

Tea originates from China and has been a central part of the culture for thousands of years. In Britain, tea was not introduced until the 17th century, though it has since become a staple and adapted to local tastes.

Every day thousands of tea samples arrive in Harrogate for the tasters to evaluate. The business essentially relies on their taste buds to find the right mix of leaves to maintain the signature flavors that the company bases its reputation on. Chinese customers mainly buy Taylor of Harrogate’s Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea.

“Our approach was to invest time and resources to understand consumer behavior and we found that there are a number of Chinese consumers with a high level of discretionary income and demand for Taylors of Harrogate brands,” says Davies.

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The demand is growing mainly among China’s wealthy middle class and is fueled by portrayals of British high society featured in TV shows, news stories of the British royal family and classical novels like Jane Austen’s, analysts say.

“Previously, Chinese consumers were more exposed to American culture, McDonalds and Hollywood-style things. These few years, because of the popular British TV dramas, Chinese consumers are more exposed to British brands and the lifestyle,” says Hope Lee, senior drinks analyst at Euromonitor International.

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Another reason for the thriving popularity of British imported tea is the seemingly endless string of food scandals that plagues China and Hong Kong.

Greenpeace and government investigations found high levels of pesticides or poisonous earths in tea, also in some of the best-known brands. Imported premium British tea brands are perceived as being safer and of higher quality.

Paradoxically, some of the British tea sold in China and Hong Kong is originally grown in China. However, it represents only a small amount of British exports there – about 3 percent, according to Frost & Sullivan, a market research company.

British tea makers mainly import leaves from Africa and India, regions where the taste for British tea blends has not grown in the same way, for economic and cultural reasons.

Despite the recent slowdown in the Chinese economy, Taylors of Harrogate and many other companies and industry experts are optimistic about the country’s consumers.

“We are continuing to strengthen our lengths in China,” says Davies. (VOA)

 

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Auction for Darjeeling Tea goes Online, will not be “hand-gaveled” Anymore

The first trial plantation of seed was planted at an altitude of 700 ft. by Dr A Campbell and an experimental nursery was set up in Darjeeling in 1845

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A tea estate in Darjeeling. Image Source: Firstpost (Jeff Koehler)
  • Darjeeling tea comes from only about 87 estates producing about 8 million kilos out of which 2.5-3 million goes directly under Choudhury’s gavel
  • Darjeeling was the last to give into the digital auctioning which took over all the other varieties of tea
  • The first trial plantation of seed was planted at an altitude of 700 ft. by Dr A Campbell and an experimental nursery was set up in Darjeeling in 1845

Darjeeling tea, the most sought after and highly valued tea is still manufactured using the “Orthodox” method instead of the curling, tearing and crushing (CTC) method followed in the plains. The combination of natural factors like the cool and moist climate, the rainfall and the sloping terrains, the soil and not to mention the people of the land makes the tea unique in all aspects. But this year, there has been a slight change in the rituals generally performed. In June the last gavel fell on the live auctions of Darjeeling tea. Darjeeling was the last to give into the digital auctioning which took over all the other varieties of tea.

“Personally, it completely seemed like the sky had fallen. Very few auctioneers wear ties anymore. We ensure we look the way we looked 30 years ago, ”says Anindyo Choudhury Choudhury took who is now probably the last manual auctioneer standing. Choudhury is the auctioneer for J Thomas, the oldest and largest tea auctioneer and broker in the world who has been selling tea since 1861. His office in Kolkata is lined with bound volumes of the Cochin Tea Market report and Monthly Tea Reviews dating back to the 1970s, said the Firstpost report.

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Darjeeling tea comes from only about 87 estates producing about 8 million kilos out of which 2.5-3 million goes directly under Choudhury’s gavel. The rest are sold through private deals. But 40 million kilos are sold on the market as Darjeeling.  “Our company sells about 200 million kilos of tea a year,” says Choudhury. “Only 2.5 million is Darjeeling. But the time it takes to sell that 2.5 million kilos is more than what it takes to sell the other (almost) 200 million. It takes that much nurturing,” says Choudhury to the Firstpost.com.

Tea Garden. Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Choudhury knows most of the people who come every Tuesday to bid. He coaxes the process along, sometimes pausing to gently rib them. He even scolds the buyers if their bid is low. These three million kilos were what held the giant industry as a heritage, a tradition. The relationship between the auctioneer and the buyers and the tea and its people is what made Darjeeling tea special. And now, it has become mechanical in many ways. It may have become more efficient, and may even sell at higher rates but the one ritual that connected the tea to its lovers has become replaced.

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Now, tea buyers can log in from around the country to make a bid. But, J Thomas will have to send out more free samples ahead of time putting a strain on an already tight market. It will also mean that there is going to be a lot of silence- no more noises or squawking, just people looking at computer screens and pushing a button, states the article.

The first trial plantation of seed was planted at an altitude of 700 ft. by Dr A Campbell and an experimental nursery was set up in Darjeeling in 1845. Mazumdar, a tea producer and buyer told Firstpost, that Darjeeling is the “biggest and best-organised gift by the Britishers to India.”

-This report is modified by Ajay Krishna, a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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2 responses to “Auction for Darjeeling Tea goes Online, will not be “hand-gaveled” Anymore”

  1. As India is heading towards digitization with its Digital India Programme, it is a great initiative This would ensure larger participation and good rates.

  2. Rituals followed for years are hard to replace. The human touch and the link between buying and selling is now taken over by machines. It is difficult for those who have witnessed and been part of the auctioning to accept the change.