Silchar Feb. 4: The Tea Board of India’s quality upgrade and product diversification scheme, which aims to improve quality of tea, will continue into the next plan, its chairman M.G.V.K. Bhanu has assured planters.
The five-year promotional scheme was introduced in the Northeast during the Twelfth Plan to encourage cultivation of both high value organic and orthodox tea.
Addressing the 42nd annual general meeting of TAI’s Barak Valley branch here last night, Bhanu said not only would the programme continue in its present format in the next plan period, the subsidies would also be stepped up from 25 per cent to 30 per cent.
Bhanu, however, rejected the planter’s request for authority to issue no-objection certificate to tea labourers if they wished to join the Centre’s rural job scheme under NREGA, which offers a better remuneration. “I cannot crack down on absenteeism by tea workers from garden jobs as they face a better choice for earning a living. To match it, the planters should consider hiking the tea labourers’ daily rated wages,” he added.
He appealed to planters to consider sharing profit from tea crop with garden workers as incentive. In this connection, he expressed satisfaction that the average prices of better grade tea in Cachar gardens had registered an increase upto Rs 160 a kg.
The chairman of TAI’s Cachar sub-committee, N.K. Bagla, who is based in Calcutta, said his association was trying to export CTC tea on a largescale from Cachar to Bangladesh, where there is a huge demand for the beverage. He appealed to Barak planters to join hands in the effort.
He said planters in the Barak valley could reap a better margin of profit if they rushed their products to Bangladesh where a kilogram of tea sells on an average at Taka 260/kg. Pointing out that their counterparts in south India had made inroads into the Bangladesh market, he said Barak valley planters should not lag behind.
He said the present buoyant market for tea in India, generated by a global supply shortage of around 40 to 50 million kg, was expected to continue till the second quarter of this calendar year.
He said as getting tea labourers in Barak gardens had become a serious problem, the TAI has proposed to mechanise all operations of tea plucking and production for the Union commerce ministry’s consideration.
Bagla said as the present market sentiment for better quality of tea was steadily increasing, local planters should focus on upgrading the quality of their product and thus take advantage of the growth of domestic consumption of tea at the rate of 3.5 per cent annually in the country.