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Darjeeling planters lobby for sops

Calcutta, Dec. 9: Darjeeling tea producers have appointed Delhi-based Global Agri Systems Company to suggest modalities to transform the tea-growing area in the Darjeeling district into an agri-export zone.

The Bengal government has already sent a proposal to the Union commerce ministry for declaring Darjeeling tea-growing area as an agri-export zone.

Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority, an autonomous body under the Union commerce ministry, is responsible for declaring agri-export zone status.

An official of Darjeeling Planters’ Association said if the Darjeeling tea growing area gets an agri-export zone status then the producers will be able to avail of a lot of benefits. “The Delhi-based firm is expected to submit its report soon,” the official added.

An agri-export zone attempts to take a comprehensive look at a particular produce/products located in a contiguous area for the purpose of developing and sourcing raw materials, their processing/packaging, leading to final exports.

If the Darjeeling tea growing area gets an agri-export zone status then tea producers in this area will get a lot of pre-harvest benefits like credit and duty-free inputs like fertilisers and fuel. Similarly, they will get some post-harvest facilities like market assistance and market analysis.

Darjeeling tea industry officials said they will also get financial assistance for developing the infrastructure in the area, which includes roads, water and houses.

“It will also attract new investments in the Darjeeling tea growing area,” an official said.

The Darjeeling tea industry is in a bad shape for quite some time now. The production of Darjeeling tea has remained stagnant at 9-10 million kg per annum over the years. This year till date the production is hovering around 8.5 million kg.

Darjeeling tea is mainly exported to the UK, Germany and other European countries. The domestic consumption of Darjeeling tea is not high.

The prices of Darjeeling tea has shown some improvements in the current year, thanks to the new Tea Marketing Control Order, 2003. The new order has helped quicker movement of tea at the auctions.

Darjeeling tea in the current year has been sold at an average price of Rs 124.96 per kg against Rs 114.68 per kg in 2002.

A Calcutta Tea Traders Association official said, “The prices of Darjeeling tea is expected to see a further rise in the coming months due to lower offerings at the auctions.”

Darjeeling Planters’ Association is also planning to organise roadshows both in India and abroad to promote Darjeeling tea.

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