Turning over a new leaf: From poppy to tea in Manipur’s hills

| Updated: 13 October, 2023 9:38 pm IST

GUWAHATI: Manipur, a region plagued by deforestation linked to extensive poppy cultivation in its hilly terrain, is now witnessing a groundbreaking endeavour by a private tea company to replace narcotic plantations with thriving tea gardens.

Meckley Tea India, a new entrant in the Indian tea industry, is spearheading an initiative to transform the landscape of Manipur by transitioning from poppy to tea cultivation. The company has identified picturesque sites across the state, blessed with lush greenery and serene landscapes, to establish Tea Tourism destinations. This startup aspires to become a key player in the Indian tea sector by producing top-quality tea.

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Renowned tea scientist P. Bordoloi, formerly associated with the Toklai Tea Research Association, the nation’s premier tea research institute, explained to The New Indian the suitability of Manipur’s climate, temperature, rainfall, and soil for tea cultivation. He believes this region has the potential to yield the finest and highest-quality tea in the world.

Another promising aspect of this tea venture is the presence of naturally occurring wild teas in Manipur’s forests. These indigenous varieties hold significant promise for producing exceptional teas.

Tea Tourism represents a burgeoning industry that not only offers tourists a unique experience but also creates employment opportunities for local residents. The promotion of tea tourism is set to open up fresh avenues for employment, spanning from tea plucking to various hospitality services, thereby improving the income and quality of life for local communities. Furthermore, tea cultivation is environmentally friendly and sustainable, contributing to the preservation of Manipur’s pristine natural beauty.

Director of Meckley Tea India, Milan Koijam, has set an ambitious goal of producing 16,826.92 kgs of tea by converting 7,500 hectares of poppy fields into tea plantations, with an expected revenue of Rs. 72 crores.

Koijam emphasised that this initiative will provide employment, address unemployment issues, and boost Manipur’s GDP. He called for the support and collaboration of the government, local communities, and stakeholders to ensure the success of this transformative venture.

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