Centre to repeal Tea Act of 1953 and Coffee Act of 1942
The Narendra Modi government has decided to dump the decades-old legislation that has governed major cash crops like tea and coffee and introduce new legislation designed to reconstitute the relevant Boards that will henceforth act as “facilitators” for the benefit of the industry.
The Centre has proposed to repeal the Tea Act of 1953 and the Coffee Act of 1942 and replace them with new regulations.
The government has placed the new proposals in the public domain and sought suggestions and comments from the stakeholders on the proposed regulations.
“After more than 68 years, some of the existing provisions of the Tea Act, 1953 have become redundant by efflux of time for which it has been proposed to bring a new Act in place of the present Act under which Tea Board will act as a facilitator for the benefit of tea industry,” a notice put up on the Tea Board on its website said.
The new legislation – to be called the Tea (Promotion and Development) Act, 2022 -- proposes to delete those archaic provisions which have become irrelevant in today’s context and introduce new objectives/functions/powers of the Board so that the Board can act as a facilitator to optimise the development, promotion and research in tea industry and help in improving production, export, quality of Indian tea, the notice added.
The Coffee Board also put up the proposals on its website and sought comments.
Sources said the Centre may carry out similar changes in other commodity boards such as rubber, spice shortly. These commodity specific boards, with strong regional presence and connection, report to the Union ministry of commerce.
There has been a lot of speculation that the government intends to do away with the existing Boards. It now appears that it has now decided to completely overhaul the role and function of these organisations.
Under the new Act, the Tea Board will be renamed as the Tea Promotion and Development Board. Its remit is also being expanded to cover nine objectives.
The most significant change is that the new Board will be to encourage fair and remunerative prices for growers. The draft bill does not spell out this objective will be achieved. The buzz in the industry is that it may set a floor price for tea but there is no clarity on how this will be done.
The new Board will also seek to promote sale and consumption of tea including through e-commerce platforms.
A cursory look at the proposed Bill indicates the Centre is looking at major overhaul. Dealing in tea will not require a licence from the Board. Instead, the requirement will be registration, indicative of a lower burden of compliance.
For the first time, the bill seeks to define the small tea grower as one whose estate does not exceed 10 hectares.
The bill expands the long list of definitions in the old Act to cover categories like auction organiser, blender, dealer of broken mixed fibre, origin tea, packer and primary and secondary buyers.
Broken mixed fibre has been defined as tea sweepings, tea fluff, tea fibre or tea stalks or any article purporting to be tea which does not conform to the specification of tea laid down by the Tea Board from time to time.
Some of the punitive sections of the Tea Act are also being replaced, notably section 16, which had empowered the Tea Board to take over any garden if the management was not up to the mark.
The Boards will be run by chief executive officers who will be aided by a chief financial officer.
The tea industry is hoping that the new Board will actively take up promotion of the beverage in India and abroad, re-build the Indian tea brand, rejuvenate stagnant exports and increase domestic consumption.