Growers seek govt control on leaf price

The All Assam Small Tea Growers Association on Tuesday urged the state government to control the price of green leaf, establish factories, set up a separate tea ministry, utilise the cess deposit and provide land documents to sustain small tea growers.

By ALI FAUZ HASSAN in Guwahati
  • Published 12.09.18
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Rohit Borgohain addresses the news conference in Guwahati on Tuesday. Picture by Manash Das

Guwahati: The All Assam Small Tea Growers Association on Tuesday urged the state government to control the price of green leaf, establish factories, set up a separate tea ministry, utilise the cess deposit and provide land documents to sustain small tea growers.

The demands come in the wake of sustained pressure from tea workers to increase daily wage from Rs 165 to Rs 350. Tea workers cite increased cost of living for their demand.

The association alleged that big tea companies are squeezing the small growers by paying less price for green leaf and buying on their whims, forcing the growers to sell at a price that does not cover the cost of production.

The small tea producers are also hampered by the policy of not allowing auction of organic tea at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC). Only small growers produce organic handmade orthodox and green tea but have to sell it in an unorganised manner, which lowers the price.

Association general secretary Rohit Borgohain said, "Our cost of production has gone up. It costs around Rs 15 to produce a kilo of green leaf but we are forced to sell between Rs 12 and Rs 14. The factories sometimes cite breakdown and refuse to buy our leaf. We are then forced to throw it away. The minimum benchmark price fixed by the Tea Board is not accepted by the tea companies. Cess at the rate of 10 paise per kg of green leaf is collected from us though the government has not issued any notification on this issue. More than Rs 200 crore has been deposited but the government is not utilising it for our welfare. A separate tea ministry should be set up, green leaf prices controlled by the Board and tea cultivation should be considered agriculture instead of an industry. Organic tea should also be allowed to be auctioned."

Growers have to sell organic tea anywhere between Rs 1,000 and Rs 3,000 while the traders export it at Rs 10,000 per kg, the association said. Small growers produced 90,000kg organic tea last year.

The minimum wage due to workers can be paid by small growers only if their operation becomes profitable, it said.

In a related development, The All Adivasi Students' Association of Assam on Tuesday demanded the interim increment of Rs 30 to tea workers be given from January and not from March.