The Telegraph
Friday , August 15 , 2014
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Govt support sought for tea

Calcutta, Aug. 14: Planters have sought support from both the central and state governments to increase the revenue from tea gardens, in the wake of starvation-related deaths at some closed estates in Bengal.

In a statement issued today, the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA) said a number of gardens were only barely managing to break even. Stressing the need for financial restructuring of closed gardens, the industry apex body said it must happen in tandem with the proposed plantation reforms covering the factory and the estate. Priority should be given to expediting land lease renewals, the grant of approvals to use spare land in gardens for tea tourism, cultivation of alternative crops and horticulture to carve out alternative revenue streams.

“A committee needs to be constituted that will analyse the problems of gardens in north Bengal. Reports of distress in certain pockets tend to paint the entire industry with the same brush,” CCPA chairman A. N. Singh said.

Bengal has five closed gardens in the Dooars, while Kerala has two and Assam one.

Deaths of estate workers at Raipur and Bandapani gardens have prompted the district administration to conduct an investigation into the causes.

A restructuring of existing bank loans with a reasonable waiver of the accumulated interest, a moratorium on the repayment of principal, concessional rate of interest and fresh infusion of capital will have to be considered to make the process of garden takeovers by prospective promoters smooth.

Late last month, Tea Board chairman Siddharth had said plans were underway to analyse and tweak clauses in the Tea Act, 1953 to smoothen the process of garden takeovers and handing over of leases.

Seventy-five per cent of the tea bushes in Bengal are over fifty years old. This results in low yields and a higher cost of production.