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Price insurance for small tea growers

SLUMP SHIELD

Jalpaiguri: The Tea Board of India will offer small tea growers an insurance scheme to insulate them from losses caused by falling prices.

The board has convened a meeting in Calcutta on Wednesday to apprise the small growers - those who own gardens of 25 acres and less with no tea factories - about the Revenue Insurance Scheme on Plantation Crops (RISPC).

"As of now, a benchmark price is fixed for a kg of leaf every month in each tea-producing district of the country. But in many cases, it has been found that growers get prices below the benchmark and often have to bear losses," said a source.

"Sometimes, the price declines below the cost of production. That is why it has been decided to provide this cover so that if the prices dip, growers can get the balance amount, that is the difference between the benchmark and the (market) price realised, from this scheme," the source added.

As a pilot project, the scheme will be introduced in Bengal where there are over 40,000 small tea growers spread across North Dinajpur, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Cooch Behar.

"The tea growers of Bengal have often complained of low prices and loss of tealeaves due to natural calamities and had appealed for insurance coverage so that such losses are compensated. That is why the Tea Board has decided to bring them under the RISPC. On Wednesday, the growers' representatives would be briefed about the scheme and its benefits," S. Soundararajan, director (tea development) of the board, said.

According to Soundararajan, the premium of the insurance would be borne by the Centre, state and small growers. While the Centre will pay half the premium, and the state and the grower one-fourth each. "The amount of premium and other details would be communicated to the growers in due course," the official said.

Small tea growers welcomed the scheme. "Although the tea board has been fixing the benchmark price every month, we are not getting it most of the time. These losses have raised questions over the sustenance of some of the small plantations. It is good that the tea board has finally made a decision that will help growers," said Bijoygopal Chakraborty, president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers' Associations.

In the past few years, the contribution from the small tea sector in the country's annual production has been on the rise. "We have crossed the 50 per cent mark and it will keep on increasing in the coming years," said Chakraborty.

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