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Tea team packed off with panel

Calcutta, Sept. 3: The much-awaited meeting of the India Tea Association today ended with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee announcing a committee and little else for the down-in-the-dumps industry that was awaiting remedial measures.

Speaking at the 120th annual general meeting of the association, Bhattacharjee said the government had formed a committee to identify the reasons for the slump and suggest a remedy.

Surprisingly, the panel does not have any representative from the tea industry. It comprises commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen, his labour counterpart Mohammad Amin and two officials of the Tea Board.

The announcement of the committee took the tea industry by surprise. “We came to know about such a committee today. We expect the government to come up with some concrete steps to tide over the crisis,” said an industry veteran and ITA member.

Bhattacharjee, while acknowledging that the industry was going through a turbulent phase, was quick to highlight the role of the labourers, who, he said, had been compelled to sacrifice their due benefits and rights for the sake of running the gardens.

About 9,000 small tea plantations in north Bengal have decided to close down operations from Friday due to the unprecedented fall in green leaf prices.

But Bhattacharjee’s theory to reduce cost of production through higher production was not acceptable to the industry.

“The domestic consumption is not showing any upward trend and the exports are falling drastically. How can higher production lower the cost of production'” said an ITA member.

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