Push for organic certification of famous Durama tea from Garo Hills

Growth of tea contained jhumming in Rongram area

TURA: Given the high market demand and the total absence of any pesticide use in its cultivation, Meghalaya Government is moving for organic certification of Garo Hills’ most popular brand of tea “Durama” in similar line with Khasi Hills’ famour “Lakadong” organic turmeric.
“Durama Tea is not only tasty but also organic because tea farmers have never needed to use any kind of pesticide on the plants which is a rare and unique thing. Today 40 percent of the entrire tea market in the Garo Hills has been captured by Durama Tea,” said Commissioner and secretary P Sampath Kumar during a visit to one of the tea collection centres at Tebronggre, this week.
The tea is produced by the West Garo Hills Tea Farmers Federation headquartered at Rongram, 15 kms from Tura.
The arrival of tea in the region has also benefitted the eco system, substantially, as many farmers turned away from the traditional jhumming cultivation and took up tea cultivation more than two decades ago.
According to Mr Kumar, for any organic certification of a product it requires a three year process and given the rising demand for both Durama tea and Lakadong turmeric the government is moving for their certification.
“Once they get organic certification the Durama tea and Lakadong turmeric farmers will be able to export their produce not just in the country but even in foreign countries for a very profitable price because there is a huge demand for organic produce,” said the Commissioner and Secretary and added that the advantage for the Garo Hills tea farmers is that a tea factory backed by the state government is already up and running for the past ten years producing this organic brand.
Most recently,In Ri-Bhoi district’s Umsning area, tea growers transformed their entire tea plantations into organic but are yet to start their own tea processing factory.
Tea production began in the Rongram region as early as the begining of the 1990s’ but absence of any government assistance compelled farmers to sell their produce for rock bottom prices to privately run tea factories.
At one point of time, farmers were forced to sell their tea leaves for just Rs 2 a kilogram. In 2006-07, the district administration took a major initiative and got the farmers to come together and with funding assistance opened the Durama Tea factory at Rongram in 2008.
Since then, there has been no looking back as more and more farmers in the region have transformed their land into tea plantations raising the economy and their livelihood prospects as well.
Today farmers are getting paid a sum of Rs 16 for a kilogram of freshly plucked tea leaves. Also, they no longer need to trek miles from their distant fields to the factory to hand over their day’s tea leaves collection since collection centres have been established at several points to facilitate the transfer of the produce. A mini truck comes at the end of the day to collect the entire consignment from these collection centres easing the burden of the farmers who can now spend more valuable time doing other productive works as well.

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