Helping Nepali Tea Farmers

World's Organic Production:

Let me start with a question. How much percent of the world’s food is organically produced? Perhaps you guessed it right. It’s around 1 percent of the world's food production. While there are disagreements on what to call organic (certified or not), basic understanding is that the food produced without the use of man-made chemical fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides is organic.

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Picture: Farmer adding goat Manure as fertilizer for tea plant at an artisan farm

Nepali Tea Industry and Organic Tea

Well, that’s that. But we are here to talk about Tea and to be specific Nepali Tea Industry. You see, if you read through the history of tea cultivation in Nepal, it is almost as old as Indian Tea, but on the Nepal side the tea industry did not flourish until late 1970’s. Some bigger estates were started with the initiative of the Nepal government. Parallelly industrialists and those entrepreneurs who had sufficient wealth to venture into this trade started their own farms and factories. It was not until early 1990’s, when the face of Nepali tea Industry started changing. That is when the “Small farmers revolution” begin. It was a revolution in the sense that more and more farmers joined the tea trade. The influence behind this change can be credited to the hyped “Darjeeling Tea” industry. Nepali small farmers who were going through the rough financial patch due to their failing cash crops like Cardamom and Ginger decided to adopt tea farming.

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Picture: Small artisan farm in Suryodaya, Illam, Nepal, owned by farmer Radhika Mukhiya. Lot of tea farms are owned by small tea farmers in Nepal.

So, from handful of farms and few thousands of laborer's in 1990’s to over twenty thousand tea farmers in 2024, Nepali small farmers in the eastern part of Nepal (which falls on the Darjeeling border) adopted tea as one of their main sources of Income. As someone with a firsthand experience of seeing the change in geological and socio economical landscape of eastern hills of Nepal, I can say, Tea helped uplift the economic status of thousands of small farmers in the Illam, Panchthar, Taplejung, Dhankuta districts of Nepal. This was a radical change for Nepali farmers but sadly, all this change happened without proper infrastructure and management system.

Now comes the daunting part of this tale. Right now, there are some 130 tea producers in Nepal. Most of them are small tea producers. Roughly only 10% of the tea produced in Nepal is organic. Less than 20 tea estates are organic certified. Although most small farmers follow organic green leaf production practice, the small producers face challenges to get organic certification due to the hefty costs. If you do a general google search, you will see that most tea companies originating from Nepal have listed this as a major challenge. Handful of producers who were ahead in this organic drive and were able to create umbrella organizations and lobby with international buyers sell majority of their tea around the globe. More than half of small producers who have organic certification, still end up selling their teas to India.

What about the 90% of Nepali Tea? Nepal trades above 90% of it’s tea to India. These teas are later blended and sold under the name of “Darjeeling Tea”. Nepali Tea Industry supports Indian economy but has always been treated as a challenge or a threat to “Darjeeling Tea” Industry. There is a reason behind that. There is no infrastructure in Nepal to check the tea chemistry (use of pesticides and insecticides). That is crucial for food import and export. While chemical testing determines if the product is good enough for human consumption or not, organic certification eliminates the need for chemical testing.

In the last 5-10 years, Nepali teas are being represented by various tea sellers around the globe and have been receiving appreciation and recognition. While most of them have capitalized this quality of Nepali tea and have been cashing out, very few have stood out to support Nepali small artisans and farmers. What Nepali artisans need is tea traders who can help them to get organic certified.

"Nepal Hills Tea's" Organic  Drive

“Nepal Hills Tea” was established in Canada due to one key reason. To support unrepresented small artisans to showcase their loose leaf teas(Black tea, Green Tea, White Tea) and to provide them support to gain much needed organic certification. With organic certification, even if they sell their teas to Indian brokers, they get a little more price for their teas, which translates to small farm holder farmer getting more price for their green leaves. Our “Organic Drive” program promises to donate 5% of the annual revenue to small artisans working with us. This program will run till year 2030 and will annually contribute 5% of our revenue for this program. While it is hard to determine how many artisans we can support with this program, the goal is to support at least 5 farms to get organic certified by 2030.

You can help Nepali Tea Artisans

You can help. Yes, you can. By buying our products, you not only get the option to enjoy some unique Nepali teas at affordable prices, but also contribute towards this cause. Organic certification of our artisan factories means, you get organic certified teas, and guess what: “At the same prices”. Our promise to you is that our product prices [Standup Pouch version Teas] will be firm until the year 2026.

Help us in this journey to support Nepali Artisans and Nepali Tea Industry. We also appeal any tea traders capitalizing Nepali teas to support the underrepresented artisans by developing program like ours and directly contributing (not through the middle man), to ensure that your funds are properly utilized.

 

 

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