Improving conditions in tea plantations in Assam
We all love a hot cup of tea but do you ever stop to think about where the tea that goes into making your favourite brew comes from? Take a look at the back of your pack of tea bags next time you make a cuppa and, more likely than not, you will find mention of Assam.
Assam is a remote area of Northern India that produces some of the finest black tea in the world. Tea from Assam is prized for its strong robust flavours which is why so many of the biggest tea brands in the UK use it in their blends.
In Assam most tea is produced on large plantations or estates and picked by employed workers. It is also grown on small plots of land by smallholder farmers who sell their freshly-plucked green leaf to plantations or tea factories for processing into black tea.
We started working in Assam more than 20 years ago and today there are 10 Fairtrade certified plantations across the region. Like so many of the areas in which Fairtrade operates Assam is not without its challenges with decreasing productivity, static market prices, low worker wages and poor living conditions among the issues it faces.
While Fairtrade is making progress on improving the situation for workers and their families on Fairtrade certified tea estates in Assam much more needs to be done. The challenges are incredibly complicated but Fairtrade is committed to making a difference.
In 2018 we will be producing a new strategy for Assam which will set out how Fairtrade will drive improvements in working and living conditions as well as wages. As part of this strategy we will be running a multi-year programme on the ground, working directly with plantation workers and management, to improve plantation productivity as well as the livelihoods of workers.
To inform our programme strategy we wanted to know exactly what was happening in Assam. So, working with Lab, an International Labour Organisation (ILO) project and key people from the tea industry, Fairtrade has produced a report which documents the significant issues affecting tea plantations in Assam, their workers and residents.
There is no easy fix to the issues in Assam. Many have their roots in colonial times and are deeply entrenched. But it was precisely to tackle such problems, and to use trade to overcome poverty, inequality and economic hardship, that Fairtrade was established.
There is a huge amount of work to be done and Fairtrade cannot do it alone. As part of our strategy we will look to engage all stakeholders involved in Assam tea, including tea brands and governments, to bring about the transformative change that is needed.