Tea is a product loved by many consumers around the world. Most of the tea leaves are extracted from China or India. From the plantation plants, it makes its way to millions of homes. From this process, it goes through a commodity chain. In this essay, I will be focusing on the chain of production of tea in India. The commodity chain does represent a fusion between local producers and global consumers because the tea produced in India contributes to the global economy by exporting their products.
Some of the cultivated tea remains in India and is transported throughout the country by trucks. Most of the tea, however, is sold through E-Auction which is managed by the Tea Board of India (Sharma 2015). Some of this tea bought by e-auctions include Unilever’s Lipton tea which is found throughout the States’ grocery stores. The commodity chain activities I will be focusing on include the effects of the production of tea leaves in India.
Tea leaves are grown throughout India. Most of India’s fertile lands are used to grow tea plants. Many tea plants are being grown in India has a high concentration of monoculture. A monoculture is when there is one crop in a given area. The concentration of a monoculture leads to the need to use pesticides because many pests prefer an environment of a single crop. The use of pesticides makes the tea consumers consume more dangerous from the harsh chemicals. The pesticides are also harmful to the tea workers causing respiratory issues.
In 2011, two pregnant elephants died from the use of pesticides in a tea estate in India (Bhaumik 2011). These elephants ate the grass that was contaminated with pesticides. Furthermore, tea plants occupying most of the fertile lands are getting old, so the farmers are forced to look for a new way to replace the older plants with higher-yielding younger tea plants. This led to the development of nurseries for tea plants in which new tea plants are grown from bushes and then grown in nurseries. The cultivation of tea leaves poses a threat to the wildlife surrounding them. Not only does the production of tea leaves affect the wildlife, but it also affects the land. The tea plants are over-farmed which takes away the nutrients in the soil. ThisGuwahati leads to soil erosion, deforestation, and the loss of rainforests. Many species also lose their habitat which results in species endangerment.
To distribute the tea leaves, the leaves need to be extracted to make tea. The labor is provided by the people of India. Over 50% of laborers are women and some are children (Rasaily 64). The intensive work to extract tea leaves is manual and skilled. The tedious work includes picking two leaves at a time per bud. These laborers earn 115 rupees a day which is equivalent to about USD 2 a day. Because children doing tedious work on these tea plantations, it is a violation of human rights. The reason why children are working on these tea plantations is that for workers to get their 115 rupees they must reach a quota (Bhowmik 46). This results in parents bringing their children to work to meet their quotas.
After the tea leaves have been extracted in India, the tea leaves are then sold in tea e-auctions. The Tea Board of India oversees the e-auctions in Siliguri, Kolkata, Cochin, Coonor, Guawahati, and Coimbatore. The distribution of the tea is affected by the Tea Board of India. They constantly promote exporting to outside countries such as the U.S. to increase the demand for Indian teas. This then puts a strain on tea estates to increase their yielding of teas when it is already too difficult. It then affects the conditions of the workers on the tea estates. For the U.S., tea leaves are usually bought by Unilever which owns Lipton. Unilever would purchase these tea leaves from the e-auctions and make their blend with it. Then it is sold in grocery stores like Publix in Tampa. It is then purchased by the consumer and consumed.
Ultimately, tea production goes through many hands to get to our homes in Tampa, Florida. The result and demand of buying tea leaves from India are taxing on the lands of India but are needed to promote low-paying work on tea plantations. While it mostly benefits corporations like Unilever by the huge profits, it places a huge strain on workers on tea estates to meet the demands of big companies. However, there are efforts to push the reform of the tea industry to become more sustainable such as Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, and more. The organizations work to ensure tea workers get paid decently and have better standards for the environment. Because the tea leaves of India reach many doorsteps throughout the world, the chain of commodities poses a link between the producers of tea and the consumer on a global scale.