The Centre will spend nearly Rs 1,000 crore for the Indian tea industry with focus on the small tea sector that contributes close to 50 per cent of the total tea produced in the country, a source in the tea board said.
The sum allotted under the 15th finance commission for “tea development and promotion scheme” will be spent between November 2021 and March 2026.
“In all, an outlay of Rs 967.78 crore has been sanctioned for the scheme. The objective is to improve the production, productivity and quality of Indian teas so that the brew remains competitive in global markets. The plan involves steps for better realisation of prices, enhanced export share and transparency in the entire supply chain,” said a source in the tea board.
The board has identified seven major components covered under the scheme, such as development of small tea plantations, welfare of workers that includes the wards of the small tea growers, market promotion, sector-specific plan for the Northeast, research and development, regulatory functions and reforms in the tea auction system.
In small tea sector, funds would be available to encourage mechanisation, setting up factories of farmer-producer organisations (FPOs), workshop and training and also for the studies of children of the small growers.
“It is a major announcement that can largely help the small tea sector that has come up during the past two decades. Along with tea estates, this sector is steadily contributing to tea production. Over the past couple of years, around half of the tea in India comes from small tea plantations. We hope growers and other stakeholders will benefit from the scheme,” said Bijoygopal Chakraborty, president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers’ Associations.
According to him, there are around 2.5 lakh small growers in India. Among them, 1.3 lakh are in Assam and 50,000-odd in Bengal.
Under the scheme, growers can also get aid for infrastructure in their factories, from machinery to storage sheds. “Factories can also get funds to be used as a revolving corpus,” said a source.
Under the scheme, the Centre has also put impetus to increase area for organic tea.
“The demand for organic tea, like the brew produced in Darjeeling, is increasing. That is why options for assistance have been included in this scheme, both for tea estates and growers. They can get funds for conversion of their plantations and for setting up organic factories,” said a tea board official.
According to him, a 10-member committee headed by the deputy chairman of the board has been formed.
“It will monitor implementation of the scheme across the brew belts of India and coordinate with the stakeholders,” the official added.