Known for its high-quality Darjeeling tea, the Indian region of West Bengal is about to see the introduction of a number coffee plantations as part of a new government-led initiative that is hoped will bring new jobs and tourism to Faizabad and its surrounding areas.
The state government is working alongside the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur (IIT-KGP) in order to bring coffee to the tea-stronghold of West Bengal. The first scheme that is being organised will see coffee and tea plantations be located in similar locations situated across the rolling landscapes that form the Ajodhya Hills.
“The plan,” explains Subhashis Batabyal, the chairman of a local development corporation, “is to turn Ajodhya Hills into a tourism hub on the lines of Darjeeling where tourism and the tea industry go hand in hand.”
Darjeeling attracts visitors from all over the world, with the tea industry and the local Himalayan Railway being the two main tourist draws to the West Bengal town. Conversely, the regions surrounding the Ajodhya Hills are comparatively devoid of tourists and so officials are implementing a scheme to promote the region’s natural beauty in association with a vibrant coffee and tea trade.
“Besides augmenting tourism, the aim is to create an alternate livelihood for the people. Once the project is successful, we will substantially enhance the cultivation area,” Batabyal added.
An estimated investment of around $3,350-5,000 per acre is expected to be pumped in to see the project succeed.
A similar project was established in the 1990s, but that, which focused on tea rather than coffee, was cancelled. At the time a lack of available technology and suitable expertise was cited as the primary reasons as to why it failed. A few commentators have made the link to the upcoming coffee-centric initiative.
But Saoumen Palit moved quickly to dispel fears, stating that “now we have all the know-how and we are confident of realising the objected of turning [another area of West Bengal] into a tea and coffee hub.”
In order to help the project come to life Eco Yes Technologies, a company which helps implement specialised agricultural techniques in ‘non-traditional’ areas, has been drafted in to provide support and advice.
Coffee production in India is predominantly concentrated in the southern states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and despite the vast size of the nation, India ranks as the world’s sixth largest producer of coffee.