Kunming of Yunnan, and Kolkata of Bengal, are now declared sister cities.  This adds another jewel in the crown of Darjeeling!  Kolkata to Kunming – K2K – is a regional co-operation group under BCIM – Bangladesh, China, India & Myanmar. This group gets support from government agencies like Yunnan Development Research Centre (YDRC), in Kunming and NGOs like Centre for Studies in International Relations and Development, CSIRD, in Kolkata.

The idea of a sister-city partnership began in 2003 and had its 9th meeting in Kolkata, India,  on November 21 – 22, 2013.  This year’s business delegation met on a larger scale by involving various Chambers of Commerce and industries from both countries.

20131121_104103Tea is grown in the area K2K covers. The volume harvested is almost two billion kilos, so the importance of this Forum is very much in evidence. The Tea Board of india is situated in Kolkata as well as three large tea auction centres in Gauhati, Kolkata and Siliguri ,and three large tea markets in Kangle, Kunming & Pu’er City.   Highly respected tea research is carried out in Jorehat and Simao.

Sometimes, events are seen from different angles.  When I was speaking on the Indian tea industry at the Forum, I realized that much co-operation is needed for mutual success.  As the Chinese delegation arranges K2K meetings in various cities of Yunnan, like Dehong, Mangshi, Ruili, Dali, and so on, we must take the next meeting to Darjeeling. 

Very soon, China will be consuming 90% of the Darjeeling tea produced in India. Assam tea is becoming popular for milk tea, which is bottled and marketed by beverage giants like Wahaha and Uni President.  It looks like China will become the biggest market for the Indian tea industry. The K2K Forum will provide that platform from which the Indian tea industry based in Kolkata has to take off. The Tea Board of India has to recognize this opportunity – since it was the Governor of Bengal who inaugurated the Forum.  Industry minister Partho Chaterjee was Chief Guest and CII had a breakfast meeting with the Chinese industrial delegation.

Northeast has tremendous potential even where infrastructure lacks, but joining the BCIM region with Kolkata, Chittagong and Yangon ports will boost tea production to feed the growing world demand.  The fertile Kachin hills of Myanmar can be better purposed to produce high quality Assam type teas.

Opportunity has to be recognized and utilized

 Images courtesy of the author.

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of five posts about the remarkable tea industry of Darjeeling.