Guwahati Off-Campus

Call for Papers for a Seminar on Tea Plantation Economy India: Issues of Value Chain and Decent Work 7-8 December, 2018


Date and time: Oct. 30, 2018 12:00AM - Nov. 17, 2018 11:55PM



Seminar on


Tea Plantation Economy in India: Issues of Value Chain and Decent Work


Organised by

Centre for Labour Studies & Social Protection

School of Social Sciences & Humanities

Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati Off-Campus


Supported by

International Center for Development and Decent Work (ICDD), Germany


TISS Guwahati, Assam

December 7-8, 2018


Over the last few decades, there have been significant changes in global production system (GPS) at economic, social and political levels across commodities and sectors, leading to a rapid expansion of employment in production process. However, much of this employment is often flexible, insecure and informal, lacking legal and social protection. Owing to economic upgrading within GPS, producers have access to higher value activities either in terms of production of goods and/or the processes they are involved in. However, little attention has been paid to the need for social upgrading ensuring better work conditions for workers linked with GPS.

Traditionally grown in large plantations, in India, tea has high value chain effects. It employs over 1 million permanent workers, making it the largest employer in the formal private sector. Plantation Labour Act (1951) and other Acts have made provisions of various economic and social entitlements such as housing, minimum wage, bonus, ration, provident fund, education, and healthcare facilities to tea workers mandatory.

The existing structure of tea industry is exploitative, suffering from acute decent work deficit. Further, since 2007, a significant number of tea estates has closed down or remained abandoned. However, declining exports rather than shrinking production or diminishing prices or sales seem to be a growing concern. There is stiff competition in domestic and global markets, along with inadequate investment and production of better quality tea in international markets.

Despite these constraints, paradoxically, the total production, consumption and price of tea in the national market have been increasing since 2009–10. The reason is the growth of self-employed tea cultivators known as small tea growers (STGs). These peasant farmers, possessing a maximum of 10.12 ha of land for growing tea leaves, cultivate their own land either using family labour or employing wage labour. They sell leafs either to Bought Leaf Factory (BLF) or to tea estates through green leaf agents as they neither have direct access to the market or any say in the fixing of prices.

Processed tea, manufactured either in the estate or local factories, are sent to auction centres from where large tea marketing companies buy (most are MNCs). Tea prices at the auctions are set at not very high prices but are sold at much higher prices after packaging the product. While large plantations suffer from the low price setting, small growers are the worst hit. As BLFs like other producers get low prices, they buy green leaves from small growers at lower rates. The small growers too cut down on labour costs to minimise costs of production. This affects the living conditions of small growers and the labour engaged in these plantations.

Although STGs are fast emerging as an alternative model for tea production, they are under extremely insecure and vulnerable situations, with no control over green leaf prices, input costs, manufacturing process, and national and international trade in tea. They do not have systems to safeguard their interests and to absorb the risks and costs transferred by those who control the value chain. The insecurities of the STGs are further aggravated by the progressive opening up of cross-border trade and its policies. However, STGs have an impact on the global production of tea and provides business opportunities to other formal as well as informal actors in the chain.

Against this backdrop, the following concerns will be addressed in the seminar:

1.      Tea in Global Value Chain

2.      Crisis in plantation: causes and consequences

3.      Emerging smallholders in plantation economy: nature, sustainability and linkages

4.      Innovations and new collectives

5.      Casual workers and farm labour: new labour questions

6.      Gender in plantation

7.      Social upgrading through decent work along tea plantation value chain



The aim of the seminar is to come up with an edited volume with one of the leading publishers. 


Important Dates

Deadline for Extended Abstract Submission: 17 November, 2018

Notification for Abstract Selection: 20 November, 2018

Date of Seminar: 7-8 December, 2018


Interested researchers are requested to submit an extended abstract of about 1000 words (including objective, methodology and clear findings of the paper) to:


Dr. Debdulal Saha (Convener, Seminar) at, and

Padmini Sharma (Coordinator, Seminar) at


Limited fund is available to the selected paper presenters.