Tea workers strike hit local farmers

ILAM, April 27: Local farmers have suffered loss worth more than Rs 200 million due to the strike launched by tea workers. Farmers have not been able to sell green leaves to tea producers ever since the workers launched strike 10 days ago, demanding pay hike.

Agitating workers have brought harvesting and processing of tea in key districts — Ilam, Dhankuta and Terhathum – to a grinding halt.

They have been putting pressure on employers do adjust their salary and other benefits as per March 24 understanding reached between the trade union representatives and employers.

Farmers in these three districts alone harvest around 140,000 kg of green leaves every day. Daily production of green leaves in Jhapa hovers around 500,000 kg.
Local farmers are worried as there is no indication of the strike ending anytime soon.

“We are losing sleep because of the protest launched in the peak harvesting season when we get good prices for our produce,” said Dambar Katuwal, a farmer in Kanyam of Ilam.

March and April months are the key harvesting season for quality tea.

Farmers have no option but to rely on local processors as processors in Darjeeling of India have stopped buying Nepali green leaves because of the lack of quality testing lab to ascertain that the leaves are free from pesticide residue.

According to the National Tea and Coffee Development Board, a total of 6,772 farmers in eastern districts, excluding 7,693 in Jhapa, are involved in tea farming.

Infuriated by protracted strike by tea workers that has brought tea harvesting and processing to a grinding halt, local farmers have been obstructing vehicular movements and market along Panchakanya-Phikkal-Kanyam section of Mechi Highway since Friday.

Transportation of dairy products has also been affected along the highway due to agitation of the tea farmers.

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