Guwahati, Wednesday, August 14, 2019
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Centre-industry crucial meet today
Ajit Patowary

 GUWAHATI, Aug 13 - Following the open appeal of the Indian Tea Association (ITA) to the Government urging for steps to provide relief to the beleaguered tea industry, the Union Commerce Ministry has called a tea industry stakeholders’ meeting tomorrow at New Delhi.

According to tea industry sources here, tea producers’ associations, major tea buying companies, buyers’ association FAITTA, major tea broking firms have been invited to the meeting, which assumes significance in view of the crisis faced by the country’s tea industry at present due to several factors.

Sources in the industry allege, among others, that due to the refusal of two big buyers, the industry has not been able to earn prices for their produces, which are compatible to their cost of production; moreover, the cost of production has also been escalating.

The problems faced by it have made this industry, which is employing over a million people directly, a crisis-ridden industry.

Facing such a situation, the ITA, the major association of the country’s tea planters, issued an advertisement in all major newspapers of the country, seeking Government’s urgent interventions for revival of the tea industry.

It made appeals to the Government to assume the responsibility of making the Provident Fund (PF) contributions for workers for three years and to fix a minimum reserve price for tea in auction, based on the cost of production.

It also urged the Government to provide substantial fund for generic promotion of tea in India.

Prior to tomorrow’s meeting, the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) has sent a memorandum to the Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal in this connection.

Besides the appeal for paying the employers’ share of contribution to the PF payable to the workers by the industry, it has urged the Government to consider payment of four per cent interest subsidy for five years on the outstanding working capital loan availed by the industry from banks.

It has also urged the Government to subsidise power tariff at the rate of 50 per cent against the power consumed by the tea industry, for a period of at least five years. Moreover, the Government may also grant 90 per cent subsidy on installation of solar plants in the tea industry in line with what it is doing in the case of the educational institutions, said the NETA in its memorandum signed by its advisor Bidyananda Barkakoty.

It has also called for steps to subsidise the expenditure borne by the industry in selling its produces through the auctions, to enhance the incentive for orthodox teas from Rs 3 to Rs 20 per kg and to fix a minimum price for green leaf, among others.

Referring to the 2018 study conducted by M/S Deloitte Touch Thomson India LLP on ‘Domestic Consumption of Tea in India,’ it said that per capita tea consumption in India is 0.78 kg.

“There is every possibility that the per capita consumption of tea can go up by way of generic promotion of tea in the domestic market. If we can increase the per capita consumption of tea in India by another 70 grams, then 50 per cent of the challenges faced by the Indian tea industry will be over,” said the NETA in its memorandum.

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