Jorhat, Sept. 27: A sharp fall in prices of green tea leaves recently has made the Tea Board convene a meeting here tomorrow between representatives of small tea growers, bought-leaf factories and tea planters’ associations to discuss the unrest among growers.
Board director (tea development) G. Boriah will arrive from Calcutta to attend the meeting.
The prices of green tea leaves have fallen from Rs 22 per kg a month ago to Rs 8 to Rs 10 per kg at present, especially in most of the areas in Upper Assam, which has the highest concentration of small growers.
Yesterday, small growers staged a demonstration in front of the board office here alleging the green leaf buyers (bought-leaf factories and organised gardens) have created a monopoly and were artificially bringing down the prices.
The small growers also alleged the green leaf buyers were not following the price-sharing mechanism as envisaged in the Tea Market Control Order 2003, under which buyers were supposed to share 65 per cent of the profit made from selling made-tea, with the growers.
Rakesh Saini, executive director (Jorhat office), told The Telegraph that Boriah will arrive tomorrow to hold discussion with all the stakeholders to find a solution.
Saini said the board was concerned about the development and said they were always ready to help the stakeholders of the industry.
According to government data, there are about 70,000 small tea growers in the state who contribute to about 25 per cent of the total tea production in Assam, which produces over 50 per cent of the country’s tea.
General secretary of All Assam Small Tea Growers’ Association, Karuna Mahanta while welcoming the initiative, said the prices of green tea had started to fall since a month back and last week it had gone down to as low as Rs 8 per kg in Upper Assam.
Mahanta alleged that prices had fallen sharply, because of a monopolistic policy adopted by the green leaf buyers.
He alleged the prices of made-tea had not fallen in the auction market to such an extent and hence there was no reason for the prices of green leaves to fall in the open market, which has hit the small growers hard. Since the last three days plucking had been stopped by growers in many places in Upper Assam because of the price fall, Mahanta said.
Mahanta said the problem was most acute in the five Upper Assam districts that has highest concentration of small tea growers while in Sonitpur, Lakhimpur and Nagaon, the prevailing rate of green leaf was Rs 17 to Rs 20 per kg.
“How could there be such a big difference?” the general secretary asked.
Mahanta said last year during the same period, the green tea leaf prices had also fallen and led to chief minister Tarun Gogoi asking buyers not to lower the price below Rs 15 per kg, but Gogoi’s directive was not followed.
He said only four factories in Assam implement the price-sharing mechanism under TMCO 2003.
The vice-chairman of Assam Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers’ Association, Gautam Beria, denied that green leaf prices had fallen owing to a monopolistic policy adopted by buyers.
He said the erratic gas supply to factories in recent times had led to a cut down in procurement of green leaves, resulting in extended plucking rounds disturbing the plucking cycle, which adversely affects the quality of made-tea.