Tehran, Aug 16, IRNA-Some 80 percent of tea factories in the northern parts of the country have been shut down, a morning daily said on Tuesday quoting a tea industry official.
Only 83,000 tons of tea leaves have been produced since March, said the English-language 'Iran Daily', quoting Nemat Yavarzadeh, executive manager of Shomal Tea Factories Syndicate as saying.
He noted the figure for the corresponding period last year was 200,000 tons, which means the tea industry is completely down, adding the State Tea Organization was dissolved due to its failure to protect national tea production.
He further noted that only 20 percent of tea factories are operating.
Experts say tea leaves to be produced this year would be of poor quality, stressing that some 80 percent of the country's demand for tea is met by smugglers and not farmers, said the paper.
Production of tea leaves is expected to decline by 60,000 tons in the year to March 2006, while processed tea output will also drop by 30,000 tons, according to Iran Daily.
Some 80 percent of last year's tea crop has reportedly been stockpiled as a result of import and smuggling of the product, the article noted.
Agriculture officials have been criticized for their failure to remove the challenges facing the once lucrative industry, which is now undergoing its worst period, noted the daily.
Northern province of Gilan ranks first in tea leaves industry with 34,000 hectares of land allocated to tea leaves plantation and an annual green tea production of 50,000-60,000 tons.
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