the development of the tea industry in india and pakistan


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  • THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TEA INDUSTRY IN INDIA AND PAKISTANAuthor(s): Arnold WhittakerSource: Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 97, No. 4800 (29th JULY, 1949), pp. 678-687Published by: Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and CommerceStable URL: .Accessed: 28/06/2014 15:15

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    By Arnold Whittaker, c.s.i., c.i.e.

    India, Pakistan and Burma Section, Thursday, 7th April, 1949

    C. K. Nicholl, Chairman , Indian Tea Association {London), in the Chair

    The Chairman: It is an honour to preside this afternoon and have the privilege of introducing Mr. Arnold Whittaker, for there can be few who possess the same intimate knowledge not only of India and its peoples but also of tea.

    I ought perhaps to explain to you how Mr. Whittaker came to be associated with the industry. Before the Government of India Act of 1935 became operative, the Indian tea industry realized that it was essential in its best interests to have the services of men to represent it not only at the centre of the Government but in the local provincial legislatures as well. It was further recognized that the best men for such appointments were most likely to be found among the members of the Indian Civil Service, who, from their intimate knowledge of Indian problems, as well as their administrative experi- ence, were eminently suited for such duties. Mr. Arnold Whittaker was therefore offered and accepted a post as one of the advisers to the industry, and his services during his association with tea in India were outstanding.

    I am happy to think that he is still with us as a member of the Committee of the Indian Tea Association in London. In addition he rendered more than valuable help to the Government of India and the Province of Assam in many other spheres during the Second World War.

    I am quite sure, therefore, that there are not many better qualified to address you on the subject of tea and I will now call upon Mr. Whittaker to do so.

    The following Paper was then read :

    I hope that the short and simple film to be shown soon will be a better illustration than any lengthy remarks of mine of the opening-up of plantations and the manu- facture of tea in India. The film is mainly concerned with Assam, which produces more than half the total crop of India and Pakistan . Assam was the first area to be developed, and was followed by planting in the Himalayan foothills in 1842, in the Surma valley in 1856, in Darjeeling during the next two years, and by 1874 in the Western Dooars. In South India commercial planting had begun in 1853, but development was slow and nearly two-thirds of the total acreage under tea was planted after 1900.

    The industry, which has now an annual crop of almost 600 million pounds is a comparatively modern one. Its development is a tale of British enterprise and endurance, for it has survived economic adversity and lived through a political revolution - albeit a peaceful one. It has achieved a remarkable measure of autonomy in that much of the legislation which governs its production and exports, the recruitment of its labour forces and the marketing of its product was initiated by


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    the industry itself. Its critics say that the Government was merely the agent for the industry ; its friends say that it provides a perfect example of the harmony which should exist between Government and industry generally. That this tradition is continuing with entirely new governments in power and in an entirely changed political climate suggests that practical men on both sides find that the method works.

    A film entitled A Tale in a Teacup , kindly loaned by The Tea Bureau, London, was then shown. On its conclusion the lecturer continued :

    The tea industry was established in China many centuries before the Christian era. By the ninth century A.D. there was an impressive volume of literature on the growth of the plant and the technique of tea drinking. Tea had all the medicinal and gastronomical virtues imaginable, but of special interest to me is the twentieth item on the list given in a Chinese manuscript now in the British Museum which runs: "It strengthens the use of due benevolence". As your lecturer I can only hope that the brew provided by the Royal Society of Arts distils this quality for its audiences.

    The dominance of the China tea industry had two unfortunate effects on the development in India. First, the fact that the East India Company had the monopoly of the tea trade with China caused that company to discourage any tea venture in India. In 1 8 13, however, Parliament curtailed the company's powers in India and served notice that the China monopoly would end in 1833. In 1834 Lord William Bentinck, who had been appointed Governor-General in 1827, appointed a com- mittee to submit "a plan for the accomplishment of the introduction of tea culture into India and for the superintendence of its execution". The very wording of that injunction shows the determination and far-sightedness of its author - accomplish- ment and execution strike the note. That committee set about its business so thoroughly that the facts it established launched the tea industry with surprisingly few misadventures. Secondly, although Lord Bentinck 's committee quickly found beyond all doubt that the tea bush is indigenous to Upper Assam, a scientific commission set up later became obsessed, as did many other members in the Government, with the merits of the China plant ; and when the Government of the day started to clear jungle in Dibrugarh they rejected

    " the degraded Assam plant" for the China variety imported with great difficulty and at enormous expense. Another obsession that only the Chinese knew how to manufacture tea was more quickly abandoned when the first- and last - contingent of Chinese labourers specially imported ended their journey in jail for rioting, arson and theft.

    As early as 1815 a British officer (Colonel Latter) had reported that certain of the hill tribes in North-East Assam made a drink from wild tea growing in the hills. In 1823 Major Robert Bruce took a trading expedition to Sibsagar and found wild tea, the seeds from which were collected by his brother, C. A. Bruce, in the following year and planted in the Commissioner's Garden at Gauhati and in Bruce 's own garden at Sadiya.

    In 1825 this Society of Arts offered a gold medal - or fifty guineas - "to the person who shall grow and prepare 20 lb. of good quality tea".

    Mr. C. A. Bruce was appointed the first Superintendent of Tea Culture in Assam in 1836. In 1838 the first shipment of manufactured Indian tea was ready. It consisted of eight chests, about 350 lb., which was sold in January, 1839, l


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  • JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTS 2TH JULY 1 949 the Mincing Lane auctions at prices ranging from 21s to 34$ a pound. In 1839 Upper Assam was brought under British control and the Government transferred its main tea-growing interests in the following year to the Assam Company which appointed C. A. Bruce its first Superintendent.

    The company ran into difficulties for disease took a heavy toll of its managers and their labour forces. Clearing this heavy jungle was costly, although 2,500 acres were under cultivation by 1841 and 29,000 lb. of tea were produced. By 1847 company was on the verge of bankruptcy when a change of management and increased cultivation of the despised Assam variety pulled the company through to the dividend-earning stage by 1852. This successful example was followed by other companies; and by 1859 there were more than fifty private enterprises producing tea. The degraded Assam plant had come into its own. Today all the tea-producing countries outside China and Japan are seeking the Assam strains for their finest commercial teas.

    From these beginnings grew the industry which is, outside China, the largest producer of tea in the world, employing ij million persons and housing over 3 million. I like to think that the shades of Major Bruce and his brother, who, with their teams of labourers used to hack their paths through the jungle in search of tea bushes, often in danger from the Burmese invade