Tea is still grown as a typical plantation product. Tea plantations have both agricultural and business features. The work in the tea gardens is basically of an agricultural and labor-intensive nature. The planting, maintenance and harvest are done by hand. In tropical areas, the tea can be chosen all the year round, the work mostly being done by women. The leaves are put in baskets or bags which the women carry on their backs.. The processing has a large-scale and industrial character. In the factory, where the tea undergoes five different treatments, the work is largely mechanized and accounts for only some 10% of total employment in the tea sector.
Plantation work the situation of the people employed at the plantations can differ both between and within producing countries, but in general one can say that tea producers, e.g. plantation owners or state enterprises, can only survive with tea prices if the tea workers' wages are low too. Many claims for the completion of labor laws and least amount wages remain unattained for the tea pickers and or tea workers. In India, for instance, the plantation sector was formally reformed after independence and laws for the protection of workers were passed. However, controls on the completion of the law are fake, and the sanction for breaking laws are so least that plantation owners are hardly affected by them. The implementation of the law is thus in essence left to the employers, and the improvement of working conditions is clearly not the first priority for the companies.
In South India, around the cities and on the larger plantation, the conditions are comparatively good. In the North and the North-East, many tea pickers still live and work in miserable situations. The personnel in the Indian tea sector are highly organized. But there may be strong rivalry between the various unions on the tea plantations, and the labor conflict thus caused is rather to the difficulty of the workers and to the benefit of the management. The 'elected' union leaders do not always present the interests of the group of men and women working on the plantation. The farm workers belong to the lowest socio-economic group and have many women and Advise among them. The union leaders are often outsiders from the middle class. Besides being indifferent, some of them are even prejudiced against Advise, women and unskilled labor.
Small tea farmers although tea is usually a plantation product, in many countries it is also refined by small- scale producers. In Sri Lanka, for instance, more than half the tea crop is produced by small tea farmers and in Nilgiris small-scale production is main. Kenyan tea comes almost exclusively from small farmers' cooperatives. The cultivation of tea is attractive to small farmers; tea provides work and income the all through the year, requires relatively little investment, and the risk of complete crop failure is rather small. Small farmers sell their crop to middlemen, to plantations or to 'bought leaf factories' - factories which buy up green tea, process and sell it. The prices paid for the green tea are usually low. According to the mediators, the tea supplied by small farmers is inferior to the cultivated area product. This of course depresses the price paid to them even further. Besides, small farmers may lack the resources to afford the necessary technical input.