| Short breather |
Jorhat, Sept. 5: The Tea Board of India has temporarily relaxed the quality norms imposed recently on small tea growers of Assam on supplying green leaves to bought-leaf factories.
The order, issued yesterday by the executive director (in-charge), D. Mukherjee, of the Tea Board’s northeastern zonal office in Guwahati, said the Board has allowed a grace period of four months, from September to December 2013, on green leaf standards.
Small tea growers and the registered manufacturers must adhere to the norms.
The directive said the green leaf standards prescribed by the Tea Board would be strictly enforced from January next year.
The circular added that during this grace period the Small Tea Growers’ Association should educate its members on plucking standards.
The manufacturers buying green leaf from small growers should also carry out awareness programmes for the small tea growers to achieve the standards set by the Board.
The Board had issued a directive on August 6, fixing a minimum standard for green leaves supplied by small tea growers to bought-leaf factories. This was done to enable small tea growers get a proper price for green leaf. The prices of green leaves have fallen from Rs 20 per kg to Rs 12.50 per kg in Upper Assam districts in the past three months.
Small growers have been alleging that the price-sharing formula between tea manufacturers and green leaf suppliers under Tea (Marketing) Control Order, 2003, based on the gross proceeds from the sale of manufactured tea, was not being adhered to by the manufacturers, citing inferior quality of green leaves.
The Board, in the August 6 directive, had also asked both small growers and manufacturers not to sell and buy green leaves rejected in a factory, in another factory as that would compromise on quality.
Sources in the Tea Board said the quality norms had been relaxed following resentment by small growers who were finding it “difficult” to adhere to the standards imposed by the Board. Therefore, a four-month period has been given to the small growers to carry out necessary changes in the plantations to attain the new standards.
On August 30, representatives of All Assam Small Tea Growers’ Association and Bought-leaf Factory Owners’ Association held a meeting with Tea Board chairman M.G.V.K. Bhanu here over several issues of the small growers and manufacturers.
The president of All Assam Small Tea Growers’ Association, Karuna Mahanta, told this correspondent that the organisation welcomed the Board’s decision.