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Tea office for small growers

Siliguri, Oct. 19: Around 15,000 small tea growers in north Bengal have got something to cheer about in the festive season.

Union minister of state for commerce and power Jairam Ramesh announced that an office of Tea Board of India and a training centre would be set up in the region. The small growers have been demanding both for the past three years.

Ramesh made the announcement in Jalpaiguri yesterday. “Considering the emergence of small tea sector in the region, we have decided to open an office of the tea board in Jalpaiguri,” Ramesh said. “The office will primarily concentrate on small tea growers and their activities and will extend help to them.”

At present, a regional office of the board is located in Siliguri.

Bijoygopal Chakraborty, the vice-president of the United Forum of Small Tea Growers’ Associations, appreciated the government’s move. “The Jalpaiguri office is being set up essentially because of the increase in the number of small growers and the bought-leaf factories over the years,” he said.

North Bengal Tea Auction Centre Committee also expressed happiness. Its secretary N.K. Basu said the committee decided to provide space for the board office at the auction centre in Jalpaiguri.

The training centre that the Union minister has announced will be at Bengdubi, near Bagdogra.

“Several small growers lack the knowledge necessary to harvest tealeaves,” said Basudeb Banerjee, the tea board chairman who had accompanied Ramesh. “Courses will be conducted at the centre to train them in planting saplings, fighting pests and diseases, harvesting and preservation of tealeaves and use of fertiliser and pesticides. They can also learn basic tenets of maintaining accounts and in turn, share the knowledge with others.”

The minister also announced introduction of an electronic auction system at Calcutta Auction Centre and launching of the Dooars tea logo featuring an elephant on November 17.

“The e-auction system will be gradually introduced in all auction centres of the country. We are starting with Calcutta,” Ramesh said. “We have also decided to release the tea logo of the Dooars on the same date. Planters selling the tea will then have the option to provide a separate identity of their produce like Nilgiri and Assam,” the minister added.

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