Monday, 30th October 2017

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Tea plant care exempted

Spraying of pesticides and irrigation at the tea gardens will no longer be under the ambit of the lockdown

By Avijit Sinha in Siliguri
  • Published 29.03.20, 3:22 AM
  • Updated 29.03.20, 3:22 AM
  • a min read
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A tea garden at Mungpoo in the Darjeeling hills. (File picture)

The Bengal government on Saturday exempted certain activities related to tea cultivation from the purview of the lockdown, bringing some relief to owners concerned about how to keep plants alive in the already-closed gardens.

According to an order issued by chief secretary Rajiva Sinha, activities such as spraying of pesticides and irrigation at the tea gardens will no longer be under the ambit of the lockdown.

“… Only exemptions in respect of measures for implementation of lockdown to combat and contain spread of Covid-19, it is clarified that in tea gardens operations limited to spraying and irrigation with not more than 5 (five) persons in a squad is allowed,” the order said.

The tea companies will have to ensure that health-safety protocols and social-distancing norms are adhered to, according to the order.

Tea industry stakeholders had informed the state government that tea gardens, small plantations and bought-leaf factories (which buy tealeaves from small growers and prepares tea) had been closed earlier this week because of the lockdown.

Plucking of the first flush had been nearing completion and preparations were being made for the production of the second flush when the gardens had to close down.

“Tea produced during the first and second flushes fetch the best prices. Now that production has come to a halt, there is a chance of pest attacks in the bushes. To ensure that the quality of tealeaves is maintained, pesticides and water need to be sprinkled at the plantations. Otherwise, it would be tough for the industry to resume production immediately after the lockdown is withdrawn,” said Sumit Ghosh, the secretary of the Terai branch of the Tea Association of India.

The small tea growers in Bengal want production to resume immediately. On Saturday, they wrote to the chief secretary, seeking permission to do so.

“On Thursday, the Union ministry of food processing issued a list of food items and mentioned that their production and manufacture has been kept out of the purview of the lockdown. Tea and coffee are on the list. We have urged the chief secretary to let us resume tea production,” said Bijoygopal Chakraborty, the president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers’ Associations.