|An official addresses the workshop in Guwahati on Friday. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, June 3: The tea industry today called for 40 per cent subsidy under the special purpose tea fund, saying that the current subsidy of 25 per cent could neither absorb the heavy loss of revenue nor motivate planters to go for developmental activities.
Indian Tea Association chairman C.S. Bedi conveyed this to the Union ministry of commerce during a consultation workshop on preparation of an approach paper on tea, coffee, rubber and spices industries for the Twelfth Plan.
Vijaylaxmi Joshi, joint secretary (plantations), ministry of commerce, represented the ministry at the workshop.
The ministry had agreed to a subsidy of 40 per cent in the formative stages of the special purpose tea fund scheme, which was introduced in 2006 to improve land productivity and yield through rejuvenation of tea bushes.
The Tea Association of India and North Eastern Tea Association have also called for a subsidy hike.
Bedi, while requesting relaxation of norms for re-plantation and rejuvenation for small tea gardens, called for continuation of the orthodox subsidy scheme in the Twelfth Plan as the industry was reaping benefits from the scheme.
“Today, India has got a name in orthodox tea market and to hold to that position, the subsidy scheme should be continued,” he said, adding that orthodox tea needs to be given importance as a majority of India’s buyers have moved to orthodox.
He also called for increasing the outlays on quality upgrade scheme.
The chairman of Tea Board of India, Dinesh Sharma, said the scenario for the tea sector was still not so rosy although it had come out of the recession.
The board expressed concern over the increased cost of production, stagnation in the productivity of the organised sector and lack of focused internal generic promotion to promote tea as a health drink.
It stated that the focus for the Twelfth Plan should be to promote cost-efficient production, give incentives to promote quality of tea, promote mechanisation to mitigate labour shortage, invest in research and development and encourage domestic tea promotion, among other things.
Sources said the commerce ministry had agreed to set up a separate directorate for small tea growers under the tea board and added that posts had already been sanctioned for it. Tea associations have urged the directorate to be headquartered in Guwahati.
The Indian Rubber Grower’s Association for Northeast states has requested the commerce ministry to allocate of Rs 500 crore for the region in the Twelfth Plan along with special allocation for a rubber park in Assam.
The North Eastern Tea Association, Bharatiya Cha Parishad and the Assam Tea Planters Association, that represent nearly 400 gardens, have requested the tea board to nominate one permanent member from among them in the board.