During the last two decades of the previous century, the rural areas of Assam experienced a phenomenal growth of tea cultivation. The increase of small tea gardens began in early 90’s and peaked in late 90’s. The number of tea gardens increased specially from 1993 onwards and the numbers continue to grow. Maximum growth occurs from 1996 to 2005.The small tea growers in Assam are now an economic force for the state.The growth was very conspicuous in the five districts like Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sivsagar, Golaghat and Jorhat of upper Assam. These five districts contribute more than 82 percent of the total production of the small growers sector.Out of the five concentrated districts, the highest number of growers is in Tinsukia district. The highest concentration of plantation in upper Assam is due to already available infrastructure with existing big tea gardens (market, planting materials, skilled workers and un-used or under exploited suitable high land).Presently the concept of growing tea in small scale has percolated down even to the non-conventional districts like Kokrajhar, Dhemaji, Karbi Anglong ,Karimganj and Marigaon. Apart from upper Assam, the districts of Udalguri, Sonitpur and Nagaon have shown remarkable growth.At present small scale tea cultivation is seen in 22 districts of Assam.
The initial of small scale tea cultivation were laid during the eighties and slowly the growth picked up abruptly during the following decade largely because tea was found to be more profitable than other crops. According to the All Assam Small Growers’ Association there are more 1,44,222 number of small tea growers in the state cultivating in about 80,948 ha of land.
Small tea growers of Assam can be classified into six socio-economic background viz, i) Sedimentary cultivators, ii) Educated rural youth, iii) Educated urban youth, iv) In service personal, v) Tea garden workers/supervisors and vi) Sleeping growers.The small tea growers of Assam are now becoming a big force in as they contribute 42.17 per cent of the Assam’s total tea production ( as in 2017-18).
Though small tea growers sector in Assam has emerged as a big force, but still this sector is not organized. This is the greatest weakness of this sector of tea industry. Secondly, for not having their own tea processing factory, they are fully dependent on other factories for processing their leaves.
In addition to the existing big factories owned by different tea companies, there are some 272 Bought Leaf Factories (BLF) in Assam and these factories process the green leaves of the small tea growers. However, in many of such factories the quality of the made tea is not properly maintained and for that such teas are not realizing good price in the auction market. Due to poor realization in price, the owners of these factories are not willing and/or not able to pay reasonable price to the growers for their green leaves. Hence, growers are seen to be deprived of getting the optimum price of green leaves.
Tea cultivation with arecanut