There is a new sip of hope for the small farmers of Meghalaya, especially for those in the picturesque village of Mawlyngot, in the East Khasi Hills District: tea. It is delicate and, say media reports, as tasty as the world famous Darjeeling. It has been named Urlong Tea. This tea has been rapidly gaining the attention of tea lovers around Northeast India, the country and the world. Tea is not new to these hills. Farmers have been growing this for generations. But this is a new brew, as good as Darjeeling and purely organic. The organic part is a natural phenomenon of this state, with farmers having always preferred this method to using chemicals. Urlong, as we know it, came into being in this particular village since 2003. Land holding being small, the crop was never grown in bulk; not till the farmers got together to form a co-operative society. That’s when it all began. As soon as they were able to secure an ‘organic’ certification, they branded their tea as Urlong and demand has been rising since. The organic part cannot be over-emphasized. Says M. Dkhar, Horticulture officer Meghalaya,
The distinctive feature of tea cultivation in Meghalaya is that it is entirely organic. It has been said that quality organic tea from areas such as Sohryngkham and Mawlyngot are as good as Darjeeling and are now being supplied to Mizoram, Nagaland and even exported to Australia."
The Revolution: An MBDA Report
Says a Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA) report: Urlong Tea is a produce from Mawlyngot village, which is about two hours from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. The farmers here started growing tea in the year 2003 and made it available in the market under the brand ‘Urlong tea’. According to Mr. Nongspung, Chairman of the Integrated Village Co-operative Society (IVCS) of Mawlyngot:
Tea has been growing in our area for generations now and yet this has never been done on a big scale. Seeing how favourable our climate is for growing tea we decided as a community to form an integrated village co-operative society so that we could produce and sell our tea in a better way.
Tea from Mawlyngot village has never been treated with any chemicals or pesticides.
Mawlyngot is one of the few organic tea producers in the state which produces high-quality tea.
It has not been easy for Mawlyngot farmers, though. When they started growing the tea, the farmers of Mawlyngot would sell their produce in the local market for a small prices and small profits. The fact that their tea was of very high quality did not fetch due dividends. However, when the community formed the IVCS and worked together as a team, the farmers started getting a fair prices. This has brought hope to the entire community. There was another hurdle. Despite producing high quality tea, and despite traditionally farming through organic methods, their tea was not certified organic, to demand the right price point. It was only in 2011 that they registered under the Meghalaya Cooperative Societies Act and received the organic certification from the Control Union of Organic Certificates, Maharashtra, India. Since then they have maintained their standard as per the certification norms to ensure that the quality of the tea is never compromised.
The other problem, with rising demand, was the increasing demand-supply gap: they could never produce enough, as Assam did. With the quality of tea being top class, and already having received the organic certification, they devised another strategy to overcome this. they solely focused on quality. This has resulted in the success and popularity of Urlong tea.
A Bright Future
Mawlyngot farmers have gone against all odds in providing quality tea and making a difference to the their lives. Today, Urlong Tea is a well-recognized brand and is gaining popularity in the state as well as outside. The Integrated Village Co-operative Society has been able to showcase their tea at trade fairs and exhibitions held throughout the state and at national levels as well. The consensus has been unanimous from all quarters – Urlong Tea is a brew to be reckoned with. Have you tasted Meghalaya's Urlong tea? Share your experience with us - add it as comments! We would love to hear from you.
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