The hills of Darjeeling have always been synonymous with tea. Separating tea from Darjeeling or Darjeeling from tea would seem completely impossible. But things are on the path of change as the North Bengal Development Authority has decided to grow coffee in the hills of Darjeeling and has assigned Coffee Board of India to conduct a feasibility study in the hills.
Manoj Agarwal, secretary, North Bengal Development Authority, who will meet Coffee Board officials next week, said: “The objective behind starting coffee cultivation in the region is to promote it as a suitable commercial and eco-friendly activity among the tribals so as to benefit them economically.”
An area of about 1 hectare has been identified in Kalimpong sub-division and Kurseong sub-division where the feasibility study will be conducted by the Coffee Board. After the feasibility study report is found to be positive, work on the plantation will begin in the area. Officials of the Coffee Board said that it would take around seven months to conduct the feasibility study.
P K Dutta, joint secretary, Coffee Board of India, said the plan is in a nascent stage. “We have shown eagerness to cultivate coffee in the hills and North Bengal Development Authority has given us a nod to carry forward with our study,” he said.
Under the 12th Five-Year Plan, the Centre has planned to increase the cultivation area under coffee in north eastern states, especially in North Bengal. An analysis of the 11th Plan revealed that 1,351 hectares have been covered under coffee cultivation as against the plan target of 1,850 hectares.