Diminishing interest on plantation job is emerging out as threat for tea industry

By Business Of Agriculture on 07 Mar 2019

Social upliftment is something that none can deny. But this undeniable aspect has somehow started casting an unfavorable shadow on Tea industry. Diminishing interest of workers on garden based field work due to sociological change has already started making top brasses of this labour intensive green beverage industry concerned. 

“Shortage of workers is a major problem in many of the gardens now and it is increasing. Being a very special kind of item, tea demands high level of touch of hands where complete automation is not the answer,” said P K Bhattacharya, Secretary General of Tea Association of India. 

Tea plantations started flourishing in India around 190 years back at far flung areas. Garden workers there, without any other major option in hand, preferred tea plucking for generations. In that way, the workers used to attain sky high level of expertise and gardens used to enjoy continuous flow of skilled workforce. 

“But now, with rapid urbanization, the towns are coming closer to the gardens bringing different job opportunities. Workers are getting exposed to urban glitters through dish TV and mobile phone. More and more children of their family are getting educated. Eventually, the new generation now started preferring urban jobs over traditional tea plucking,” said social activist Ajay Moitra. 

“Incidentally, labour cost is around 65% of our total production cost. It consists cash wage as well as non cash components like health, shelter, power, water, subsidized food etc.” said said Sujit Seal, a senior planter. 

But, “Earlier, single worker’s family, residing in one garden managed home, used to provide three or even four workers to the garden. But now, single member of a family somehow continues in garden to ensure shelter, water, health, etc. Rest all go to town. The trend is hampering our worker’s cost optimization,” he added. “It’s a peculiar scenario where neither we can manage without adequate manpower, nor can we deny the social change. Time has come to give much deeper thought on the issue,” said Bhattacharya. 

With over 1200 million kg annual processed output, Indian tea industry is world’s second largest producer and employs over 8 million workers.