Calcutta, Jan. 13: The Tea Board is weighing the possibility of giving subsidy for replanting to organic estates under the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2012-17).
The policy is likely to be implemented from the beginning of 2013-14.
“In addition to non-organic conventional gardens, subsidy for organic tea gardens, too, will be considered by the board this time. Overall subsidy is normally calculated at the rate of 25 per cent of the assessed unit cost of replanting and will vary from place to place. In the plains, the cost is normally lower compared with the hills. Input costs for organic gardens are higher and, hence, their cost of replanting automatically shoots up,” said G. Boria, director of the Tea Board.
Tea Board chairman M.G.V.K. Bhanu had said the board wanted the entire industry to shift to organic production and was, therefore, helping it to develop organic planting practices.
The Tea Board has taken up such a project in Darjeeling as a model. Fifty per cent of gardens in Darjeeling are organic, while in Assam, one garden shifts to organic production each year.
The board has decided to pump Rs 350 crore into replanting initiatives to replace ageing bushes, one of the major factors contributing to declining crop quantity and quality along with the erratic weather conditions. Data show that 38 per cent of the bushes in the north and south India are between 50 and 100 years old.
The Darjeeling Tea Association has demanded a separate subsidy for the hills alone. It has proposed an increase in grants to Rs 8.55 lakh from Rs 3.71 lakh for conventional gardens and Rs 12.87 lakh for organic ones. The industry is awaiting a revision in subsidy arrangement in the wake of escalating input costs.
“We have demanded a higher rate of subsidy compared with the others in the industry as crops in Darjeeling have a higher gestation period compared with the plains,” said S.S. Bagaria, chairman of the Darjeeling Tea Association.
Darjeeling has 87 tea estates and is expected to produce 8 million kg in 2012, down 5 per cent from last year.
There is a special purpose tea fund under the commerce ministry to help needy estates undertake replanting and rejuvenation of old bushes.