Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sad News regarding the Makaibari Tea Estate

The Makaibari Tea Estate in the Darjeeling region of India is home to some of our most popular teas -- Makaibari Green (also with ginger or mint added) , Makaibari Silver Tips, Ooooh Darjeelong. These teas may be in short supply in the coming months sue to a devastating cyclone that hit the estate last week. Below is the full story:

Makaibari Recovering From Cyclone Aila
by Heidi Kyser
Friday, 19 June 2009

Makaibari Estate suffered great damage from Cyclone Aila (photo courtesy Eco Prima)

A relief effort is underway to help the managers and workers at the Makaibari Tea estate who were affected by Cyclone Aila.

According to national weather reports, Aila (sometimes called a cyclone and sometimes a tropical storm) made landfall in southern Bangladesh and eastern India on May 25, 2009. The Times of India reported that the storm took an unusual turn directly to the north, causing it to rip through areas rarely affected by tropical storms. Various media have estimated the death toll so far to be as high as 275.

Rajah Banerjee, CEO of Makaibari described the cyclone as "devastating":

"On the night of 25th May , a fierce cyclone hit us with all its fury. It sped across the vast plains of Bengal, and winds, which were 139 miles an hour, increased its intensity once it was funneled into crevasses of the Himalayan foothills. Makaibari, in the Darjeeling sub-district of Kurseong was the first on its deadly path of mayhem , death and destruction."

"The ferocity of the wind-lashed rain was so great that the window panes turned to dust on impact – there were scarcely any shards. To see it happen in front of one's eyes is an absolute trauma. Branches of trees snapped off easily. Thousands of them swirled around throughout the night of the storm like unguided missiles, impaling and destroying. It was a night of terror, the likes of which has never been experienced before."

Damage to Makaibari Estate caused by Cyclone Aila (photo courtesy Eco Prima)Anupa Mueller, owner and CEO of Eco-Prima Tea, a close partner of Makaibari, reported that the cyclone damaged the roof of the tea factory, the manager's complex and 150 workers' homes. Banerjee added that he had lost 12 acres of tea in the rains that accompanied the storm.

Mueller received a letter from the Office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate in Darjeeling, which summarized the disaster and stated, "We are distributing relief from our end, but it would be desirable if NGOs (non-government organizations) are also involved in this relief and reconstruction."

According to the letter, a total of 3,322 houses were destroyed and another 5,346 were partially damaged. Mueller said Makaibari's estimated losses will be $1.5 million to $2 million.

In response, Eco-Prima plans to allocate a percentage of all Makaibari sales for relief funds. The company has set up a Web page where donations can be made.

Hampstead Tea London, another company that works closely with Makaibari, has also set up a special page on its Web site where donors can make contributions. Kiran Tawadey, director of Hampstead, said the effort has received support from Fairtrade as well as customers.

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