STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 5, Number 3

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Page 30 of 67

STiR tea & coffee industry international 31 Use of such fertilizers expanded and, as trade with Russia grew through the 1970s and tea farmers were keen to increase their crop in order to sell more and more tea, the use of chemical fertilizers became almost an obsession. The excessive use of agro-inputs, increased yields, and the importation of mass produc- tion machinery to the tea estates led to reduced tea quality so that Darjeeling began to lose its reputation and position in the world market. And then, in the early 1980s, the Russian mar- ket collapsed and the heavily-oxidized dark brown Darjeeling teas that the Russians had demanded found no buyers in other markets. The economy of Darjeeling crashed, political parties in the region started agitating for an in- dependent state, and money was not ploughed back into the estates. As a result, many were forced to close down. Assam faced similar problems as a result of local terrorism, rising water levels, changing weather patterns, and an unwillingness on the part of some tea growing companies to address long-term problems and start investing money back into the estates and the environment. Workers return from the garden with baskets of fresh leaf

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