Calcutta, July 15: The Tea Board has decided to close its offices in London, Moscow and Dubai.
The offices were set up to promote Indian tea. However, it has been found that only 30 per cent of the expenditure incurred by these offices were for promotion, while the rest were administrative expenses such as salary, loss in exchange and bank charges.
The offices in Hamburg (Germany) and New York have been closed earlier.
Following a KPMG report, which evaluated the schemes under the Eleventh Plan of the Tea Board, the members agreed that overseas promotion would be undertaken from its headquarters in Calcutta.
The decision, taken at a meeting at Kumarakom in Kerala last month, will be sent to the Centre for its approval.
“The proposal is not to reduce promotion activities but to conduct them more effectively with less administrative expenditure,” said a Tea Board official.
The officers posted overseas will be relocated to Calcutta. It is understood that two officers each are posted in the units.
KPMG further stated that there was no direct accountability of the overseas offices in terms of performance targets or performance-linked incentives.
Also, no significant expenditure was made in market surveys, or creating strategies for expansion and promotion campaigns. KPMG said this raised doubts about the “cost effectiveness of maintaining and managing such overseas promotion offices even in key export markets”.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), too, did a performance audit of the functions of the Tea Board from 2006-09.
The CAG found that expenditure on market surveys by the three foreign offices were negligible even though such activities help to determine the preferences of consumers and importers. Participation in buyer-seller meets, too, was also insignificant. There was no effort to promote the logo in Moscow and London. The CAG had also proposed whether the functions could be performed by the economic wing of the Indian representative offices abroad.
Quality control lab
A laboratory to monitor the quality of tea is expected to be set up in Calcutta in three months. The lab will monitor iron filings in samples from different estates as well as from the market.
Meanwhile, the board has received a proposal from the Darjeeling Tea Association to engage IIT Kharagpur in a research project to suggest ways to improve the manufacturing process that will help to preserve the aroma and flavour of the beverage.