With Darjeeling tea under threat globally, West Bengal plans a makeover

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With brand ‘Darjeeling Tea’ coming under threat globally after the tea producers in the Darjeeling hills lost the prime production seasons thereby creating a severe scarcity of this tea’s availability in global markets, the West Bengal government is coming up with marketing and support initiatives to help global customers’ confidence return to this brand.

Last year, after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha called for a shutdown demanding separate statehood, which went over 100 days, the entire tea production in the Darjeeling hills came to a halt. 

Tea producers alleged that such sudden unavailability of Darjeeling tea globally has posed serious questions among global buyers on the future availability of Darjeeling tea brand and hence renewed marketing efforts are needed once production commences. 

Although the state government is yet to decide on the exact nature of branding support to Darjeeling tea, Vandana Yadav, managing director at West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation said that the state government intends to create around 30 brands of Darjeeling tea which will become the flag bearers of this industry. 

She was speaking on the sidelines of an event organised by industry body, CII here. 

Apparently, Darjeeling tea is the first product from India to obtain a globally recognised Geographical Indication (GI) tag and logo. 

This brand of tea cannot be sold without the GI tag and the logo as well as using the ‘Darjeeling tea’ name for any other tea blend apart from the one produced in Darjeeling, is illegal. 

Yadav said, “The details are being worked out how the state government can help in branding initiatives since it already has a GI tag”.

Additionally, the state government would also help the industry in better price and market discovery. 

The key markets of Darjeeling tea account for Germany, Japan, USA, UK and others.

Sources said the state government might identify selected estates which produce quality tea with a good global order book and help in branding initiatives of the produce from such gardens. 

The union government has also narrowed down on a similar plan where it proposes to identify one or two companies which can become the flag bearer of Indian tea. 

Industry officials, however, want the state government to support them monetarily first and have asked for a grant.

“The gardens had remained closed and we had lost nearly the entire years’ crop with no fault of ours. Now, we need to pay wages, bonus and others and need the state government as well as the centre to support us”, a tea estate owner from Darjeeling said.

Nevertheless, the industry believes that besides monetary help, branding and marketing support is also needed for it to stage a comeback this year and regain buyer confidence. 

It is also believed that if the state government can help with increasing the global buyer base as well as mediate selling prices, it will lead to Darjeeling tea fetching better prices in the international market.

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