Thursday, September 16, 2010
A visit to the tea country is something I usually enjoy. Rolling hills, clothed in greenery, the fresh mountain air, charming old buildings and usually tasty cooking to go with it.
Unfortunately this visit was lacking in most of the ingredients. Visited two estates owned by the JEDB and was greeted by acre upon acre of decrepit fields. A friend once told me that tea should look like a velvet carpet. These carpets were looking distinctly tatty with many holes, the few tea bushes present in an unruly state, weeds and undergrowth everywhere. Many a field seemed to have been taken over completely by thick grass.
A good testament to the follies of the state engaging in business.
It will take years of work and lots of money to restore these to good health. The contrast when we crossed over to the privately managed estate next-door was welcome. There were still gaps in the fields but they were smaller, the bushes had been pruned and plucked. There was tea everywhere and some sense of order being imposed on nature, instead of the untidy growth.
Going back to a question I have posed before: how did the people benefit from the nationalisation of what was then the most important industry in the country?
Were the state coffers filled with the treasure that the foreign owners were pocketing? No. The estates have been losing money almost continuously for years. Increased market share worldwide? No, it has been declining. More value addition? Yes, but entirely from the private sector, the best work being done before they were allowed back ownership.
More or better employment? Don't know but the workers on these estates were complaining about not enough work and that their EPF and ETF had not been paid for years.
Anyway, got a few pictures of the nicer bits of scenery, not great photographs but hope you like them.