The Nilgiri Documentation Centre, here, recollected the crucial role played by the DMK government and the then Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi in finding a solution to tea crisis in the Nilgiris in 2000.
In a press release, Venugopal Dharmalingam, honorary director of the NDC, said “tea crisis in the Nilgiris was at its peak in June 2000. Small growers, mainly Badagas, staged a protest across the district. Three buses were torched in Kotagiri. Rumours of the then DMK government’s involvement, imports of foreign teas and even names of the family members of the then Chief Minister were freely bandied about. The CM’s secretary then approached the Save Nilgiris Campaign to urgently hold a stakeholders meeting in Ooty to make the public aware of the reality behind the crisis and its possible solutions”.
The meeting, ‘Future of Tea in Nilgiris’ held on June 1, included government officials, Tea officials, political representatives, tea growers, brokers, buyers and the public, while the views of the top tea experts of the country were gathered and data of tea production, sales, exports, imports and price movements were analysed in depth.
The meeting concluded that the DMK government had been sympathetic to the cause of the small growers and that the late Murasoli Maran as the Union Commerce Minister had gone out of the way to spare funds from his ministry to subsidise the growers.
The meeting clarified the globalisation of the tea market and the risks associated with it, particularly to the small growers.
As long-term solutions, the meeting recommended direct marketing by producers, product diversification to value-added teas such as organic teas and promotion of Nilgiri teas in Indian domestic markets.
“The recommendations were accepted and implemented by the industry over the years in differing degrees with favourable results,” said Mr. Venugopal.
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