The Telegraph
Friday , November 9 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tea Board stirs cash brew

Goa, Nov. 8: The Tea Board of India has earmarked Rs 500 crore for upgradation during the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17).

It will invest Rs 150 crore in research and development, of which Rs 20 crore will be spent on developing weather resistant clones.

Another Rs 350 crore will be used for replanting ageing bushes. According to data, 38 per cent of the bushes in north and south India are between 50 and 100 years of age.

Old age of tea bushes is one of the problems of the industry that is preventing it from realising the magical 1,000-million kg mark.

“We have seen that the younger plants are stronger in fighting against insects and pests and so the Tea Research Association and United Planters’ Association of South India have been given the task of working on developing climate resistant clones,” M.G.V.K. Bhanu, chairman of the Tea Board, said at the third India International Tea Convention here today.

“Warming trends have been observed in the northeast, the major tea producing region in the country, coupled with a decreasing rainfall. This is the major challenge before the tea industry at present,” said C.S. Bedi, chairman of the Indian Tea Association. Adequate distribution of rainfall is key to sustained high yield of tea throughout the season.

Apart from Rs 500 crore, the board will invest another Rs 200 crore in the plan period to improve the working labour conditions in estates. It had invested only Rs 48 crore in the 11th plan period on labour welfare.

To enhance vigil on the quality of imports and exports, the board has set up two councils — one each for north and south India.

“Imported tea should comply with the food safety standards act. Each council has the jurisdiction to the ports of exports. Any tea exported or imported in the country will be done by them. For imports, certification of each consignment will be mandatory. Without certificates from empanelled laboratories, no imports will be allowed. For exports, samples will be randomly collected to test it,” Bhanu said.

Bhanu said exports were likely to be 200 million kg this year, similar to last year. Production is likely to be around 980 million kg despite poor weather conditions on the back of higher contribution of small growers. Imports will remain at 20 million kg, largely for re-exports.

The reporter is on a sponsored trip organised by the Indian Tea Association