The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Three-day tea week brews

Silchar, May 28: The tea industry in Cachar is weighing the option of introducing a three-day-a-week work schedule in the gardens for their labourers for lack of work.

The Cachar tea region comprises 104 gardens in Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts of Assam. As of now, the daily-wagers in the gardens are paid Rs 46.25 a day for all the days in a week even as they enjoy one day as holiday.

D.P. Sahi, chairman of the Barak Valley branch of the Tea Association of India (TAI), in a release here said the lingering drought conditions in the region since January had adversely affected the growth of the first and second flush tea crops in the gardens. As a result, the plucking had dwindled by 70 per cent in comparison to what was reaped during the corresponding period last year, he added.

“As there was not enough tea leaves in the pipeline for feeding the factory, it is useless to keep the workers idle,” the release said.

An industry source, however, said no final decision has been taken in this regard.

Sahi said the industry had made an appeal to the tea trade unions to cooperate with the garden management by helping usher in this curtailed work schedule for the labourers for a temporary period.

The release said the crop production since January had dropped by 50 per cent as the tea leaves fit to be processed are now wilting under the impact of the severe drought, which the TAI had described as “worst-ever” in the valley.

The tea industry in this region in last calendar year had recorded an output estimated at 56 million kg.

The drought cast its shadow on the tea industry at a time when the gardens had been reaping a remunerative price at the auctions and other selling outlets at an average of Rs 57 a kg. This was a jump from an all-time low of Rs 42 a kg just two years ago.

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