By Chinmoyee Mallik
Author is Assistant Professor in Geography, Mrinalini Datta Mahavidyapith, Birati, Kolkata.
Recent data indicates that tea cultivation is becoming increasingly popular with small and marginal holders. However, small tea growers often face problems due to fluctuating prices, and hence, need to be supported technically and financially to deal with an unstable market.
Since colonial times, the districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and North Dinajpur are well known for tea cultivation. Traditionally, tea was always grown in estates that were typically more than 10 hectares (ha). However, recent data in the Agricultural Census indicates that small and marginal holdings are increasingly changing their cropping pattern in favour of tea cultivation. It is an outcome of substantial government encouragement to prop-up large tea estates with the produce from small growers. Pattern of tea acreage: 1995-96 to 2010-11 Analysis of Agricultural Census data for the years 1995-96, 2000-01, 2005-06 and 2010-11 reveals the following trend: The concentration of area under tea crop continues to remain under estate farming, i.e., in land holdings above 20 ha where very little fluctuation is found across the years (Fig. 1). While there was no tea cultivation in land holdings of size below 20 ha in 1995-96, tea cultivation...