GUWAHATI, July 31 - The State’s tea industry, specially in Barak Valley, is facing yet another challenge in the wake of shortage of power supply by APDCL.
The crop outlook for the season already looks bleak, in the aftermath of prolonged period of lockdown. “While the industry is struggling and staring at difficult times in terms meeting its statutory obligations, the erratic power supply has made the situation worse for the tea industry in Barak valley,” Tea Association of India secretary general PK Bhattacharjee said.
Power constitutes a major expenditure head for production of ‘made tea’ and the expenditure on captive power generation in absence of regular grid supply costs almost double than regular grid supply.
“While the power availability in the region has been a nagging problem, the examples of gardens such as Ruttonpore Tea Estate in Cachar and Pathani Tea Estate in Karimganj would highlight the regions plight. Ruttonpore Tea Estate spent around Rs 82 lakh in the year 2019 only for procurement of fuel (HSD) in absence of regular grid supply to run its manufacturing units,” he said.
The situation has not improved in the current year. The tea estate has experienced 205 and 224 interruptions in the months of May and June respectively resulting in 177 hours and 127 hours of grid non-availability period.
Similarly, Pathani Tea Estate has experienced 250 and 326 interruptions in the months of May and June 2020 respectively resulting in 306 hours and 264 hours of grid on availability period. This particular Tea Estate has spent around Rs 16 lakh for procurement of HSD in absence of regular grid supply during these two months.
Furthermore, erratic grid supply with frequent interruption causes deterioration of quality of tea manufactured thereby inflicting a loss in revenue in realization of tea prices. Frequent tripping also considerably damage electrical accessories of the machineries reducing its longevity.
“The closure of Tea Estates during the premium first flush period (due to COVID 19) resulted in heavy losses to the tea plantations. The poor power supply has cast an additional financial burden to the Tea Estates posing a threat to the survival of the industry as the cost of production is increasing substantially,” Bhattacharjee said.
Cachar region lying at the extreme southern most part of Assam lags in communication ease and has faced challenges that are daunting for accessing the simplest of raw materials for production of tea like coal. The industry has to procure this basic raw material at exorbitant rates because of innumerable barriers it has to overcome in procuring it.
The Tea Estates have apprised the APDCL for initiating effective remedial measures.
The industry has urged the intervention of the State Government to bolster the availability of grid supply to the tea gardens.