Siliguri, Jan. 4: The Tea Board today announced several measures for qualitative improvement of tea manufactured in the bought-leaf factories (BLFs).
Following a meeting attended by senior Tea Board officials, BLF owners and small tea growers, it was decided that at least 40 per cent of green leaf supplied to the factories in the peak season (June to October) must be of fine quality. For the rest of the year, the figure could be 30 per cent. Fine quality tea is generally two leaves and a bud.
'There is an immediate need for quality-control measures for tea produced in the bought-leaf factories,' said Amal Roy Choudhury, the deputy director, tea development (plantation), Tea Board, Siliguri.
'For good final tea, the raw material supplied must be of good quality. During the peak season, we have observed that there is a fall in the quality of tea being produced in the BLFs. Growers must ensure that at least 40 per cent of green leaves supplied should be of fine quality,' he added.
Three monitoring committees, one each in Jalpaiguri, Bidhannagar and North Dinajpur, were formed at the meeting. 'The monitoring committees, comprising growers and manufacturers, will conduct surprise checks on the gardens and ensure that rules are adhered to,' Roy Choudhury said.
The committees will meet on the 10th, 20th and 30th of every month to review the situation in the gardens.
'In addition, the Tea Board will hold meetings with both growers and manufacturers on the first Tuesday of ever month to address the problems of this unorganised section of the industry,' Roy Choudhury said. 'We had initiated this process on November 16,' he added.
BLFs have always been criticised for producing low-grade tea. 'Since their tea is made from green leaf of different gardens, they are not able to produce very high quality tea,' Roy Choudhury said.
There have also been allegations against the BLFs of recycling tea wastes and mixing them with made tea. 'We are taking steps against that too,' the deputy director said. 'Surprise raids are being conducted in the factories and in the last one month we seized 1 lakh kg of unaccounted waste from the factories,' he added.
Both Amit Agarwal, president of North Bengal Tea Producers' Association (association of BLF owners) and Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty, convener of United Forum of Small Tea Growers' Association, have welcomed the Tea Board's move.