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Tech team to help small tea growers

Jorhat, Jan. 9: Professional help is finally at hand for small tea growers with newly appointed field-level officers and factory advisers to provide technical guidance.

The Tea Board initiative, under its new directorate for small tea growers at Dibrugarh in Upper Assam, will also see the officials provide assistance to bought-leaf factories to produce quality tea.

Calcutta-based director (tea development) of the board, G. Boriah, told The Telegraph here today that they have appointed a total of 36 officers as development officers (small plantations) and factory advisory officers in the first batch to provide technical assistance to estates and bought-leaf factories across the country.

“The basic aim is to provide proper guidance to small growers, whose number has increased across the country in the last few years with Assam being the most prominent with nearly a lakh of growers. As they contribute handsomely to the total tea production, giving them proper guidance was very much necessary to improve the quality of tea,” Boriah said.

The first batch comprising 22 development officers (agricultural or science graduate) and 14 advisory officers (engineers) will undergo a two-week training programme which was launched today at the Tocklai Experimental Station. Boriah said a second batch of officers — 19 development officers and eight factory advisory officers — would be recruited soon.

The director said after the two-week training programme, the recruits would undergo one-month field training at different tea plantations, factories and research centres under the United Planters’ Association of Southern India. After the field training, the officers will be posted in Assam and other states having small growers.

Boriah said an office-cum-residence of a development officer would be set up near plantations so that there could be constant supervision of the plantations at the grassroots level. He said one officer would be in charge of about 3,000 small gardens.

The board official said a development officer will play the role of an assistant manager of an organised tea garden in an advisory capacity to see the proper method of tea cultivation was adhered to and help in forming self-help groups for market linkage.

Similarly, a factory advisory officer will have his office-cum-residence near a cluster of about 20 to 25 bought-leaf factories so that all kinds of guidance can be offered to the factories and he can also monitor the price-sharing mechanism as subscribed by the board to bring transparency in the process.

Earlier, inaugurating the training programme, Assam Agricultural University vice-chancellor K.M. Bujarbaruah expressed concern over the decline in quality of tea. He said owing to the decline in quality of Indian teas in the last decade, new tea-producing countries like Kenya, Sri Lanka and China were getting better prices for their teas.

He said the quality of tea should be accorded the topmost priority by stakeholders in India, including Assam and other Northeast states, which account for 16 per cent of world tea production.