Harrisons Malayalam invests Rs 6 crore to upgrade tea unit

Written by M Sarita Varma | Wayanad | Updated: Sep 14 2009, 05:50am hrs
RP Goenka Groups Harrisons Malayalam Ltd (HML) has added a modern orthodox tea making facility at its tea factory at Wayanad in Kerala. The orthodox tea variety is among the most sought-after grades in exports market. The Rs 6-crore state-of-the-art orthodox manufacturing facility in Chundale Tea Factory (Wayanad) is just the beginning of a rejuvenation drive in the plantation business. This could trigger investments in plantation as never before, RPG Group board member Ajit Singh Chouhan told FE.

Chundale factory is taking its first step towards modernisation since its inception in 1984. The facility, set in motion last week, combines quality control and automation. Being a dual facility, it can process CTC (crush, tear & curl) tea too. The new machinery automates tea manufacturing processes like circuit withering (to ensure proper withering of tea leaves), pneumatic pressure application system in rollers (to ensure generation of remunerative grades), and maximum conveyorisation (to avoid handling and maintaining hygiene in rolling, drying and sifting). The systems in-built quality assurance makes sure that all process parameters are met through close monitoring in a common area to ensure high quality standards. Even staff training has been completed, Pankaj Kapoor, MD, HML, said.

Chundale, at present, has a capacity to process 50 tonne of green leaf per day and an annual capacity of 3.5 million kg of tea. The companys annual orthodox tea production across all its facilities is 20 million kg. With the dual facility, the capacity is expected to increase by about 20%. The factory can process over 3.7 million kg out of 20 million kg of orthodox tea annually produced.

About 1.25 million kg of CTC tea too will be processed here.

The target of the investment is to make HML profitable on a sustainable basis. This is possible only if production cost becomes the lowest, said Chouhan.

Another major incentive is the cost burden following the last wage settlement. HMLs reinvestment in the form of infiling, replanting and modernising of factories is expected to translate into efficiency improvement, helping to offset the cost-escalation partially.

Since 2000, the tea plantation industry in south Indian has been facing financial crisis, now aggravated by the economic slowdown. N Dharmaraj, vice-president (tea division), HML, argues that the companys new facility would also push up rural employment. As the price of orthodox tea grades perks up, small growers who supply green leaf to Chundale factory will get better price realisation, he said.