Nepali tea defies pandemic challenges, emerges as the lone export champion

KATHMANDU: In a legacy dating back 160 years, tea cultivation in Nepal has evolved into a significant export industry, spearheaded by the pioneering efforts of Gajraj Singh Thapa in 1920. Today, Nepali tea stands as a vital commodity for the nation, marking a triumph in global markets even during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bishnu Prasad Bhattarai, the Executive Director of the National Tea and Coffee Development Board, highlighted the resilience of Nepal’s tea industry during the pandemic, with the country exporting an impressive 11,920 metric tons of tea, emerging as a beacon of economic activity.

However, Bhattarai expressed concern about the underestimation of tea’s potential to contribute substantially to the country’s income. Despite Nepal’s tea cultivation covering 20,212 hectares, he emphasized the need for greater prioritization.

The historical declaration of specific districts as tea regions in 2039 BS by King Birendra marked a turning point, enabling small farmers to participate in widespread cultivation, subsequently opening doors to the global market.

Tea cultivation extends beyond the eastern districts, with recent expansions in Baglung, Myagdi, Kaski, and other regions. Over 15,000 farmers are directly involved, supported by an additional 60,000 workers. Annually, farmers yield 26,379 metric tons of tea, with 60 percent earmarked for export.

In the last fiscal year, Nepal experienced a remarkable surge in tea production, surpassing the previous year’s output by 4,100 metric tons. The country exported 16,594 metric tons of tea worth Rs 3.937 billion.

However, despite its thriving indigenous tea market, Nepal imports 203 metric tons of tea, particularly special varieties from India.

Executive Director Bhattarai stressed the importance of boosting domestic tea consumption to counterbalance the trade deficit. To promote local consumption, the National Tea and Coffee Development Board organized a tea exhibition at Narayani Bank in Chitwan on February 9th and 10th, advocating the slogan ‘Consume locally produced tea, become healthy, prosperous and independent.’

During the exhibition, farmers from across the country showcased their products, offering insights into tea tasting and brewing methods. Bhattarai emphasized that elevating domestic tea consumption is crucial, given that Nepali consumers divert resources towards foreign-brand liquors.

He sees tea as a potential remedy for alcohol addiction and urges a focus on specialized quality over sheer production to meet local demands.

Despite Nepal’s rich tea culture, Bhattarai highlighted that domestic tea consumption remains considerably lower than in neighboring countries, signaling the need for a concerted effort to elevate the status of this historic industry within the nation.

Fiscal Nepal |
Monday February 12, 2024, 09:55:04 AM |

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