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Yule team on garden visit

Jorhat, July 17: A three-member team from Andrew Yule today visited at least three estates belonging to the Assam Tea Corporation Limited (ATCL) as part of its efforts for a possible takeover of the management of the gardens by the central government public sector undertaking.

Sunil Munshi, director (personnel) and the chief executive of the tea division of Andrew Yule, told The Telegraph over phone from Calcutta that the team, comprising tea garden executives of the estates belonging to the company in Assam, visited at least three gardens of the ATCL today.

“The team will visit more gardens in the next few days and submit a report and things would work out accordingly. It is a part of the process,” Munshi said.

Sources said the team visited Cinnamara, Sycotta and Naginijan tea estates located in Jorhat district today and reportedly expressed satisfaction over the functioning of the gardens. “The team visited the garden factories and also sampled the quality of tea. The team members have expressed satisfaction over the quality of tea and the functioning of the factories,” a senior executive of the ATCL said over phone from Guwahati.

Andrew Yule had offered to manage Cinnamara, Naginijan and Sycotta tea estates belonging to the ATCL a few years ago but there was no response from the Assam government.

The offer was made again last year.

Although Andrew Yule is ready to take over the management of the three gardens, the ATCL has made its stand clear that “if there is a takeover, Andrew Yule has to take over at least 12 gardens of the corporation in the Brahmaputra valley”.

The ATCL has 15 gardens. While 12 gardens are located in the Brahmaputra valley, the other three are in the Barak valley.

The ATCL management has offered to exclude Andrew Yule from taking over management of the three gardens in the Barak valley as it did not have any presence in that area.

Andrew Yule is a Rs 8.28 billion multi-product, multi-unit conglomerate and has 15 gardens in the country, producing nearly 10 million kg of premium quality tea.

Of these, six tea gardens are in Assam and the rest in Darjeeling and Dooars. The estates in Assam are Rajgarh, Murphulani, Tingkong, Basmatia, Khowang and Hoolungooree.

Assam industries minister Pradyut Bordoloi had confirmed the development and a move for handing over the management of the state-government-owned ATCL to Andrew Yule. He said Dispur was exploring the possibility of a management contract without compromising the interests of the workers.

ATCL gardens have fallen on bad times because of mismanagement and lack of commitment on part of the government. The corporation was on the verge of closure about a decade back but was revived by pumping in more funds. Things have, however, not improved as expected.