| rich pickings
Calcutta, Sept. 2: The Centre has decided to grant Rs 76.80 crore as subsidy to the tea industry, but with a rider. Seventy five per cent of the financial assistance has to come from the industry while the remaining 25 per cent will be provided by the government.
The government has also spelt out certain guidelines that the tea producers have to abide by to get the subsidy.
The guidelines are: The unit availing of the subsidy will use only good-quality green leaf; the tea company will allow full access to Tea Board officials to inspect the factory; and the applicant will not be default in payment of provident fund dues.
If an applicant violates any of these conditions, he will have to return the subsidy disbursed along with interest at 12 per cent per annum from the date of disbursement of the subsidy amount till the date of repayment.
The subsidy is aimed at increasing orthodox tea production and setting up blending, processing and packaging facilities that will produce international quality, price-competitive tea.
The subsidy will help the industry modernise the plants, upgrade quality and boost orthodox tea production, said Bharat Bajoria, chairman of the Indian Tea Association. “This is a good move by the government,” he added.
The government will provide the subsidy under the quality upgradation and product diversification scheme.
The industry has been striving to produce premium quality tea to capture the export market that had slipped out of its grip and to make inroads into new markets.
The industry has set a production target of 826 million kgs of tea and an export target of 186 million kgs in 2003.
“Because of the high variety of tea produced, we need to evolve the right quality-market match. For this, the manufacturing process needs to be changed to suit the emerging markets. The scheme will provide financial assistance to tea growers who want to modernise their factories,” a senior industry official said.
The scheme will also provide financial assistance to tea gardens/factories to renovate as well as augment the processing capabilities, including packaging, bagging and product diversification.
At present, only 35 to 40 per cent of tea is sold in packages and the rest in sold as loose tea. During the 10th Plan period, thrust would be on value realisation. To achieve this, proper infrastructure needs to be created to improve the packaging standards and increase the volume of value-added tea and speciality tea such as green tea, flavoured tea and ready-to-drink tea.