India is the largest tea-producing country in the world and contributes 33% of the global tea production. Much of this tea comes from the biodiversity hotspots in the northeastern regions and the Western Ghats. Due to market fluctuations, increasing costs of production and lease expiry, many coffee, tea and cardamom plantations have become unviable for active management, resulting in labour unrest. In Thiruvananthapuram division of Kerala alone, 536 ha (55%) of the total 969 ha of the planted area was abandoned. This has important consequences for biodiversity conservation and livelihoods. (Correspondence)