TEA NEWS: 25% subsidy to tea grower – drive towards quality, good for the workers or only the owners ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BY PULLOCK DUTTA
Guwahati, Sept. 22: The Tea Board of India has decided to offer 25 per cent subsidy to small tea growers in Assam to carry out re-plantation to increase production and improve quality.
This was conveyed by Tea Board chairman Basudev Banerjee to a delegation of small tea growers at a meeting in Calcutta on Monday.
The secretary of the All Assam Small Tea Growers Association, Karuna Mahanta, told The Telegraph yesterday that poor quality of tea bushes and unscientific methods applied by a large section of small growers had impeded improvement in quality and increase in quantity.
“Tea bushes in many such gardens have reached a point of stagnation with no sign of improvement in quality and quantity. It is necessary that such poor quality tea bushes be replaced with high yielding varieties,” Mahanta, who was a part of the delegation, said.
A large number of people in Assam had taken to tea cultivation in the early 1980s but many of them did not approach their new venture in a scientific manner. Small tea growers in Assam today contribute about 30 per cent of the 480 million kg produced in the state annually but this has largely to do with the increasing number of gardens over the years rather than increase in yield. The association has about 65,000 member gardens at present.
“Most of these gardens are those which took up cultivation prior to 1988 when Tocklai Experimental Station and the Assam Agricultural University started providing training to the small tea growers following an initiative taken by the Tea Board. These gardens should go for re-plantation to increase production and improve quality,” Mahanta said.
The president of the association, C. Khanikar, said with re-plantation, the small tea sector could contribute in a much “better and bigger” way. Apart from providing subsidy for the re-plantation drive, the Tea Board has also decided to offer field training to the small tea growers very soon, he added.
He said the board chairman had assured the association of training at the field level by experts who would visit the gardens at regular intervals. “These experts could be from Tocklai, the AAU or retired tea scientists, who would visit gardens and provide advice to the planters,” Khanikar said, quoting Banerjee.
The Tea Board has also accepted a proposal by the association to issue licences for setting up mini tea factories for small tea growers in which the board would provide a 40 per cent subsidy. Although the board had issued licences to set up tea factories in Assam since long, the state government had banned opening of new factories about a year back following mushrooming of bought leaf factories.
“Now licences will be issued only to members of the association. A group of small growers can now set up a single factory and start production,” Khanikar said.