Calcutta, Oct. 20: A section of small tea growers has approached the Tea Board to seek a mini- and micro-mini factory status.
Though the board has granted an in-principle approval, the proposal requires a clearance from the Centre to include the producers in the small grower development scheme under the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (2012-17).
Setting up such factories will enable the small growers to get subsidy and process their own green leaf. This will also give them an impetus to maintain consistency in quality.
According to the growers, the support will help them to create a profitable market both within and outside the country.
Small growers have 10 hectares or less under cultivation. The average yield from such holdings is around 2,500kg of tea per hectare per annum, translating into 10,000 kg of green leaf.
A year’s harvest could be around 100,000 kg of green leaf, or around 22,522 kg of tea per annum.
“The matter was taken up at the Tea Board meeting October 5. In-principle approval has been granted. We are waiting for the Twelfth Plan approvals to come through. They could get a 40 per cent subsidy of the actual cost of plant and machinery (excluding land). If the factory is being set up collectively as a self-help group, they have requested a mini factory status and if it is being done by an individual, a micro-mini factory status will be considered,” said G. Boriah, adviser to the Tea Board.
According to the proposal, factories producing tea in the range of 22.5kg to 225kg a day will be conferred the status of a micro-mini factory, while those producing 450-500kg of tea be granted the mini factory status.
The Tea Board is focusing on the collectivisation of small growers in the current plan period to make them move up the value chain. This led to the concept of self-help groups comprising 30-50 growers who can work together and share cost burdens.
According to Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty, president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Associations, several growers have started producing speciality hand-rolled black and green tea that have fetched good prices.
“While such approvals should be granted with caution to those who apply, this could turn out to be a key method to clinch a larger share in the export market through small grower contribution. These teas are niche teas and could find their own market,” he said.
Small growers account for about 35 per cent of the national tea production. It is expected to go up to 50 per cent in the next 10 years.
Bengal has about 40,000 small growers against 2 lakh nationally.
They account for about 30 per cent of the total area under cultivation. Bengal has about 40,000 small growers against a national figure of 2 lakh.