Calcutta, Sept. 17: Small Bengal tea growers will now get a minimum price for their green leaves sold to bought leaf factories.
For September, the Tea Board has fixed a minimum price of Rs 11.15 per kilogram in Darjeeling and Uttar Dinajpur and Rs 11.72 per kilogram in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar. About 4.65 kilogram of green tea leaves is required to produce one kilogram of tea.
The benchmark price took into account the price for CTCs sold at the Siliguri and Jalpaiguri auctions.
“We had no such minimum support price in Bengal and this was our longstanding demand. We were at the mercy of the bought leaf factory,” said Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty, president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Associations.
Assam small growers, however, get a minimum price.
Minimum prices will replace a price sharing rule that had proved to be ineffective. The price sharing rule, too, came about after protest by small growers over inadequate prices.
In a petition filed in Madras High Court, small growers of south India had demanded a minimum support price for tea leaves. The court had directed the Tea Board to arrive at a price sharing formula for the growers and manufacturers in the Nilgiris.
The price sharing formula set by the board was a ratio based on the cost of producing green leaf and the selling price of the manufacturer.
On August 1, the board in a circular had expressed concern over the non-adherence to the price-sharing formula by the bought leaf factories.
“We have revisited the price-sharing formula. There has to be an element of transparency and we found that the small growers were not aware of what price he was getting,” said G. Boriah, adviser to the Tea Board.
“Following a study by the Indian Institute of Plantation Management, we found that while the cost of production for the small planters have been rising, the (price sharing) ratio still remained the same. We will now rely on the auction average price using the Siliguri prices as the benchmark for the minimum price payable for the month,” Boriah said.
Bengal has about 40,000 small growers against 2 lakh nationally.