Even the poorest of India’s tea growers has access to a smartphone, which is why the Tea Board of India will soon launch a multi-lingual app to educate and enable better communication within the tea sector.
Smallholders farming less than 20 acres (10 hectares) produce more than 40 percent of India’s tea but they are often less skilled and poorly informed about pricing, outbreaks of pestilence, and simple data like weather forecasts.
In response the board has authorized bids for the design, development, and maintenance of an android-based app to be named “Chai Sahay” (sahay means “help” in Hindi). The app will provide information in six languages – English, Assamese, Bengali, Malayalam, Hindi, and Tamil – enabling all those in the tea growing regions to share information freely. Similar apps have proven effective with India’s small coffee growers.
According to the Tea Board chairman, Prabhat K. Bezboruah, the mobile app would help monitor and inspect all tea-based projects, regulatory activities, subsidies, workshops, and awareness programs in an easily navigable manner.
“The app will also provide weather reports – rainfall, humidity and offer guidance for proper application of fertilizers,” Bezboruah told World Tea News.
Perhaps most important, the app would regularly upload the minimum green leaf price so that small tea growers are not duped when presenting their leaves for sale.
Soumya Bhattacharya, of the IT cell of tea board said, “With the surge in smart phone use, we are keen to develop this app. It will help spread information and contact detail on various activities and training sessions carried out by field officers in a faster and better manner.”
“We are expecting to come up with the beta version of the app by this year-end,” Bhattacharya told the Times of India.
The app will definitely come in handy for tea producers of any size concerned over the business viability of their estates due to escalating production cost, stagnant prices, and unpredictable weather conditions, said Bezboruah.
“The app offers advice on micro-level activities like planting, re-planting, rejuvenation, centering, tipping, level plucking, shade regulation, and pest management. It will also alert estates about plucking, pruning, and spraying rounds, soil sampling and weed management,” according to the tea board.
The app will incorporate an existing database of small tea growers (STGs) and introduce the registration process to new STGs via a back-end validation process. “The app will help small tea growers to get individual advice from experts regarding pest management by uploading, for example, a photo of their pest infested tea bushes,” a tea board official said.
Karuna Mahanta, a senior member of the All Assam Small Tea Growers Association, said the initiative will definitely help small tea growers in India. “With proper guidance from the tea board small tea growers would enable the industry to grow and produce better quality tea,” he said.
He said lack of funds available to small tea growers in India limits their ability to get advice from experts and to acquire technology to develop their tea estates.