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Jorhat, Aug. 20: Small and marginal growers of organic tea in the Northeast will organise themselves into a strong association in order to improve production and marketing of chemical-free tea at a meet to be held at Adarsh Seuj Prakalpa, Digboi, in Tinsukia district on September 11.
The meet sponsored by the Rotary Club, Digboi, and Fertile Ground Canada will be attended by Kaison Chang of International Governmental Group on Tea, FAO, Rome, Joelle Katto-Andrighetto, value chain manager of IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) and G. Boriah, adviser, Tea Board of India, Calcutta.
Pompy Ghosh, an executive member of Organic Farm Association of India (OFAI), who is in charge of organising the meet, said for the first time all tea growers who were growing organic tea or were in the process of setting up such farms would be able to exchange ideas and benefit from each others’ experience.
“We will try to establish 100 per cent networking among these growers and discuss their problems,” Ghosh told The Telegraph over phone from Digboi.
Ghosh is also associated with Fertile Ground Canada, a non-profit organisation, which promotes organic farming and has done some work in Digboi.
Ghosh emphasised that in most cases growing organic tea was not profitable for small and marginal growers because costs could not be met by selling the green leaves to factories owned by others.
“If 10 small growers of organic tea got together and invested in a drying machine which gave a larger output than buying a machine individually then they would be able to produce made tea and get a better profit margin,” she said.
Regarding the acquisition of an organic tea certification, which was a lengthy and costly process especially as there was no certification agency based in the Northeast, Ghosh said organic tea could be sold without a certificate.
“In the international market a certificate comes in handy to sell organic tea but there are organisations like Level Ground in Canada and a few others which promote health and environment and buy the produce from small and marginal farmers who grow organic food but cannot compete with their corporate counterparts,” she said.
Ghosh said 15 growers in Assam had been identified as growing organic tea, including a group of Singphos at Margherita, but this was small and therefore the entire Northeast was being brought together on one platform so that they could strengthen themselves through interaction and networking.
B. Agarwalla, director of Deha tea estate here which has 25 per cent organic produce, said the yield went down and remuneration was not commensurate with costs, especially as the organic tea market was growing at a slow pace but with the trend being organic he was all for it.
Those who wish to participate should register by August 31 and arrangements will be made for accommodation.