Tea lovers could be facing severe disappointment due to a new ban on exports of Darjeeling tea. The ban is the idea of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), a political party who’s aim is to create a separate state from the region of India which includes Darjeeling. The GJM have proposed the ban as part of a wave of protests planned across the region to try and influence the government to meet its demands. Officials are reported to be planning to meet with the party to ask them to reconsider the ban.
The export ban comes in time to affect the first flush of tea which is gathered in March and is considered by many to be the highest quality harvest of what is already a world renowned tea. This first picking provides the highest profit of Darjeeling’s four picking seasons and is a vital income for the tea gardens especially following the disappointing yields created by last years drought.
Growers are concerned that the ban will cause buyers to switch to cheaper Nepalese alternatives to the Darjeeling crop, having a lasting impact on the historic industry which dates back to the 1800s. Currently four times as much ‘Darjeeling’ tea is exported as is grown. This prevalence of counterfeit alternatives mean that the industry is already operating within a climate of fierce competition.
Wage disputes are currently ongoing in the tea growing region and workers are concerned about the effect that this action could have on the debate. For many people the tea gardens are their only source of income.
Workers, importers and tea lovers will be watching developments closely and hoping for a swift resolution.
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