The Telegraph
Monday , January 28 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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Planters oppose tea levy

Calcutta, Jan. 27: Tea planters have objected to the levy of 1 per cent market fee by the Bengal government on the brew.

The Indian Tea Association (ITA) met the Bengal agricultural and marketing department late last month to elaborate on the shortcomings of the levy and requested the government to exempt the sector from it.

Under the West Bengal Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act, 1972, farm products using state infrastructure for storage or marketing are liable to pay the charge.

According to the ITA, tea is mostly marketed through public auctions, independently organised and administered by associations licensed by the Tea Board. Members (tea gardens) do not use any marketing infrastructure or services of committees that come under the act. Also, tea comes under the purview of the central government.

“The government has in place a marketing-related infrastructure essentially to facilitate farmers to sell their produce. Tea as a finished product is not traded on any platform where state infrastructure is used. Hence, the market fee should not apply to us. An exclusion or exemption is being sought. We had made a similar representation earlier also,” an ITA spokesperson said.

Tea gardens generally obtain registration under the Tea (Marketing) Control Order 2003 from the licensing authority — the Tea Board.

“The fee is levied by regulated market committees of designated areas. There are about 42 such notified committees. We first received the trigger from the Siliguri Regulated Market Committee. We are yet to receive any communication from the Bengal government on the matter we raised,” he said.

Marketing committees are responsible for establishing a market area, providing facilities for selling of products, maintaining and managing yards, collecting and distributing information, arbitrating disputes and promoting standardisation of the produce.

Moreover, tea grown in Bengal and Assam are exported through auction centres in Calcutta. According to the ITA, any market fee levy will act as a disincentive to buyers from the state. This could also result in alternative auction centres outside Bengal gaining from the levy.