Jorhat, Dec. 29: An overall mood of buoyancy prevailed at the 31st biennial general meeting of the Tea Association of India but TAI heads warned against complacency in a scenario of decreasing productivity, declining export figures and increased competition from Vietnam, China and Kenya as well as increased cost of production.
The meet also focused on problems plaguing the Assam tea industry in particular vis-a-vis labour absenteeism, poor power supply and climatic changes resulting in low productivity, land compensation, security and other issues.
The president of TAI, Hemant Bangur, said the industry had achieved 1,000 million kg mark in tea last year and this year, but cost of production had gone up proportionately. The increase in production had come from the unorganised tea sector that is small tea growers and not from the organised sector which had failed miserably on this count for various reasons, one being uprooting and replanting.
Calling for more remunerative wages to workers, Bangur said this could be done only if tea fetched better prices and this called for better quality.
He said the government had shackled them with the Plantation Labour Act as the industry could not implement reforms as they wanted.
He further condemned the Tea Board’s price sharing with small tea growers as it was not based on demand and supply and was another shackle dating back to the colonial era.
Bangur also asked the Tea Board to continue backing the production of orthodox tea as it had done in the Eleventh Plan.
“Vietnam had taken over a large part of the market especially in production of black tea and the Tea Board should continue its support of orthodox tea in the Twelfth Plan,” he said.
He expressed serious concern on the dismal power scene which adversely affect production.
He also expressed concern over the law and order situation of the state specially in BTAD areas and Upper Assam districts of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh following the rise of insurgency in these areas.
Bangur said that in the context of productivity and production, an imminent danger was looming large because of a rapid change in the climate pattern of Assam which might lead to natural disaster.
The Assam branch chairman of TAI, H.P. Dutta, called for taking up measures to tackle inclement climatic conditions.
“The need of the hour is to have planting materials which can withstand vagaries and wrath of nature including drought, waterlogging, pests and diseases,” he said.