Challenges to Mechanization of Tea Farms

Challenges to Mechanization of Tea FarmsChallenges to Mechanization of Tea Farms

As tea farms in the country are mostly small tracts of land and since tea plants grow only on hilly slopes, agricultural machinery cannot be used to harvest the leaves and that partly explains why only 10% of tea farmers use harvesting machines, said Mohammad-Vali Roozbehan, head of Iran’s Tea Organization.

Stating that hand plucking tea is a time-consuming and a costly, tedious task, he said by using harvesting machines “a worker can collect 30 times more tea leaves per day,” the Iranian Agriculture News Agency (IANA) quoted him as saying.

However, many farmers don’t think it is worthwhile to purchase the equipment. Despite the fact that the total area under tea cultivation is very large, but each farmer usually owns only a small parcel of land (on average 3,500 sq m, but some have only 70 sq m). Thus investing $600-$1500 on a mechanized harvester is not attractive for them.

Roozbehan pointed to advantages of using new and efficient methods of irrigation including drip and subsurface irrigation and said such methods can increase productivity by 250%. They can also help improve the quality of tea leaves through constant water supply.

At present, only 1.5% of the Iranian tea farmlands are equipped with modern irrigation systems, and therefore, more effort should be made to develop modern irrigation systems in all tea plantations.

Currently, 50,000 households cultivate tea in the northern provinces of Gilan and Mazandaran.

It is estimated that a total of 100,000 households (an average family size is 3.4) make a living on tea production. There are 149 tea factories in the two provinces.

  High Quality

Iranians are known to consume 125,000 tons of tea each year (each person on average consumes 1.5 kg).

According to figures released by the Tea Organization, during the first four months of the current year that began in March, 72,000 tons of tea green leaves were harvested from tea plantations in Mazandaran and Gilan provinces.

Iranian tea is said to be among the best globally for two reasons:  tea purity is guaranteed as it is completely made from tea leaves, without any adulteration, and secondly, very little pesticide is used on the crop.

Cases of fraud in tea production are far less in the country, says Hussein Rastegar, director general of the Food and Drug Quality Control Laboratory.

“There are instances of black tea manufacturers abroad mixing grass in their products,” he noted.

He said the special climatic condition in the northern provinces prevents the growth of pests and diseases and therefore, there is no need to use pesticides. That’s why Iranian tea is one of the few organic teas available in the world.

Organic tea has many health benefits. It contains different kinds of antioxidants and anti-cancer components. It also protects bones and boosts the immune system.  Tea may also reduce risk of heart attack and stroke, studies say.