|A tea garden in upper Assam
Jorhat, Sept. 22: Small organic tea growers in Assam have begun the ground work to form a strong association to avail the benefits offered by the Tea Board of India, like bearing part of certification costs and sponsorships to travel abroad for individual growers, to promote organic tea.
Tea Board spokesperson G. Boriah told organic small tea growers at a meeting in Digboi recently that if an individual tea grower sought certification through an agency then the Board could give a subsidy of 50 per cent but not if he applied in an individual capacity.
This resulted in grave resentment with organic small tea growers questioning the partiality of the government towards chemical fertiliser and pesticide companies, which were given subsidies, while organic manufacturers or organic small tea growers were deprived of it.
Bijit Basumatary, the proprietor of a small tea garden in Kokrajhar, told The Telegraph over phone from Kokrajhar that he and others had held a meeting with Tea Board chairman M.G.V.K. Bhanu in Calcutta on September 6 and had sought 50 per cent subsidy for organic small tea growers in the Twelfth Plan.
“In the Eleventh Plan, it was incorporated that 50 per cent subsidy on certification cost would be paid to organic tea factories but what is the use of a factory if organic tea itself is not produced? There is no justification for this and we have asked the Tea Board to rectify this omission at the earliest,” Basumatary said.
He said he had applied for 50 per cent subsidy for organic certification as an individual last year but till now it has not been sanctioned by the Tea Board.
G. Boriah, who is also the director of Tea Development, had earlier said the Tea Board gave a subsidy of 70 per cent of the cost for acquiring a certificate up to a ceiling of Rs 1 lakh to only big tea gardens but not to small tea gardens.
“We can give 50 per cent organic certification subsidy if individual small organic tea growers come through an association and we can also provide group certification. This could even go up to 100 per cent,” he said.
Binode Saharia, a garden owner, said organising such a group in a particular place was difficult as most of the organic growers were scattered over the Northeast. However, a move had been made in this regard, he added.
“There is no validity in such an argument and the Tea Board has failed us. It has not done anything for the organic sector like developing mini organic equipment for our use or encouraging us in any way in spite of knowing that we are doing something good. Where subsidies should be given to our sector we have seen that the government is giving subsidies to producers of chemical fertilisers and pesticides,” he said.
Boriah further said the Tea Board could not give a readymade market to the organic tea growers, but it can sponsor individual organic tea growers to go and take part in international tea exhibitions. The only condition is that the interested tea grower needs to produce good quality tea and have large production capacity.