Nepal’s tea gardens and factories emerged largely unscathed following a week of earthquakes estimated to have killed at least 10,000 Nepalese.
Except in Sindhupalchowk, there were minimal injuries and little damage to Nepal’s tea industry, according to traders, growers and HIMCOOP, a tea co-operative. The word is less encouraging from downtown Kathmandu where 8,000 died and 20,000 were injured during a 7.9 magnitude quake on April 25. Eight million people were affected by the quake according to the United Nations with 1.4 million in need of food. Tens of thousands remain homeless.
Hardest hit was Sindhupalchowk district north of Kathmandu where 29 garden workers and their families perished in a landslide. “This garden is not in the traditional tea growing region of the far east,” writes Chandra Bhushan, managing director at Tea Direct, located in Sandakphu.
The headquarters of many tea companies are located in the capital which did not fare as well as the gardens, according to tea professionals. The death count continues to rise due to severe aftershocks like the 7.3 jolt that injured 2,500 last Tuesday. On Saturday the region experienced a 5.7 magnitude aftershock. The aftermath of landslides is adding to the death toll as excavation continues in remote areas. Aftershocks are expected to continue for many months and the monsoon season begins the first of June.
Kathmandu is 385 miles (619 kilometers) west of Ilam, which is considered the heart of Nepal’s tea production region. Ilam is across the Indian border from Sikkim, in the foothills west of Darjeeling and Kurseong, India. The region is dominated by the Himalayas and in the shadow of the Khangchendzonga mountains (Kanchenjunga is a 28,180 foot peak, the tallest in India). Tea grown in Nepal is usually shipped to Biratnagar, India where roads and infrastructure are intact.
“The main tea growing regions of Ilam, Dhankuta and Panchthar have not been affected,” writes John Taylor, Marketing Manager for HIMCOOP, the Himalayan Tea Producers Co-operative. (www.nepalhimalayantea.com ).
The only tea estate affected has been Everest tea Estate, a small plantation with a small manufacturing unit specializing in green tea, located in the Sindupalchowk district, which has been the worst affected area,” writes Taylor.
“Highways from the tea growing regions have not been affected and hence, transportation of teas to Biratnagar for sea shipments and to Kathmandu for air shipments have not been affected at all,” he writes. “HIMCOOP is on a normal work routine being able to forward samples to buyers, communicate with buyers and forward shipments as well. In fact, we had Francois Xavier Delmas of Palais Des Thes visit us at the office yesterday. He had visited Guranse and Kuwapani Tea Estates in Dhankuta before coming to Kathmandu,” writes Taylor whose offices are located in Kathmandu. The co-operative, which was founded in 2003 to jointly market tea, represents 10 Nepal gardens and 20 factories in Ilam, Kanchanjanga, Gorkha and Sindupalchowk.
Bhushan writes that “East Nepal experienced milder tremor out of which tea area and tea people remained quite safe. There was only an assorted casualty across tea areas. Details are yet to come from remoter areas.”
“However, majority of tea people have families residing/working/studying in Kathmandu and many of them are injured or affected. Details are again yet to fill in with special regard to second quake (which killed a reported 1,200),” writes Bhushan, who is a former executive director of the Himalayan Orthodox Tea Producers Association.
“Sindhupalchowk and Dolakha district have new tea plantations at farmers level. They are the most severely affected for sure but full the extent of the damage is yet to come in. The Tea Board should have more details but at the moment everyone’s attention is toward helping or rescuing people. Once I get more information, I will fill you in,” writes Bhushan.
(Watch for future updates on World Tea News – Nepal)
Tea can be grown on 80% of Nepal’s arable land at altitudes from 3,000 feet to 7,000 feet. The highest tea garden of Nepal, at 7,325 feet, is Guranse in the Dhanktua region. The main tea growing areas are Jhapa, Illam, Panchthar and Dhankuta. Tea production is increasing by 15% per year to more than 6 million kilos. Germany is the top importer of Nepal tea.
Maggie Le Beau, founder at Nepali Tea Traders, writes that “the season started quite well this year as compared to 2014. Therefore we are expecting summer crop sooner than before (at least a week ahead) and this will pull the whole season ahead. Quality wise too, this season is better than the last. Hope this streak will continue in the coming summer. Farmers and entrepreneurs are looking ahead to make a better buck this season,” she writes, “Fingers crossed.”
The Denver-based company is supporting the Help Nepal Heal campaign to rebuild the country through a Nepali Tea Restoration Fund. Nepali Tea Traders is donating 20% of sales to the restoration fund for the remainder of the year. Click here to contribute.
Many tea companies are joining in the effort to support Nepal.
Nepal Earthquake Fund, a tea-led initiative – http://www.gofundme.com/
L’Espalier tea sommelier Cindy Gold in Boston is hosting a $125 five-course tea pairing/dinner on May 31 with $50 going to Nepal quake victims. A silent auction including a private pastry lesson with L’Espalier pastry chef Jared Bacheller, rare teas, tea accessories and equipment, a number of signed books, original artwork, a tea trip to India!, a class with the World Tea Academy, a stay at the Mandarin, and various gift certificates will be available for bidding throughout the evening, with all proceeds being donated. Call 617-262-3023 to make a reservation.
Lindsay Whitcher at Choice Organic Teas reports “our thoughts are not only with the tea producers, but all its people affected by the recent earthquakes. In response, we are donating a portion of boxed tea sales from our website ( www.choiceorganicteas.com ) during the month of May to WaterAid, an organization committed to providing immediate and long term assistance to Nepal’s most pressing needs. We encourage others to donate to WaterAid’s efforts at www.WaterAid.org.”
Oxfam is on the ground providing relief work with clean water, sanitation and emergency food supplies with more than 100 staff and volunteers working in seven districts in the country on the humanitarian response. Click here to donate.
CARE Nepal – http://www.care.org/country/
AmeriCares – http://www.americares.org – Since 1982, AmeriCares has delivered medical aid, health programs and nutritional supplements around the world.
Save the Children – http://www.savethechildren.org – In 120 countries, this organization supports the well-being of children.