GUWAHATI, Aug 20 - The tea industry of the State is now in such a quagmire that it cannot afford to pay 20 per cent bonus to its workers and employees this year. It is thinking of going by the Payment Bonus Act, 1965, while paying bonus this time, stated captains of the State’s tea industry at a press conference organised by the Consultative Committee of Plantation Association, Assam Interest (CCPA-AI), here today.
The tea industry leaders also urged the Government to immediately take over the tea estate hospitals and bear other social costs in a phased manner, in order to help them concentrate more on quality production. Moreover, they called for financial packages to help the industry make a positive turnaround, in line with the ones declared by the Union Government for the textile industry in 2016 to encourage employment and export.
They also called for steps to remove the mismatch between supply and demand of Assam tea. To remove this, there should be a moratorium on expansion of tea growing areas for five years and simultaneously, there should be steps to improve the quality of Assam tea. They asserted that quality improvement is a must to boost domestic consumption and export of Assam tea.
For that purpose, they said that it would be expedient to provide incentives at the rate of Rs 20 per kg for production of orthodox tea and at the same time, there should be a sturdy mechanism to monitor the quality of tea. Even though the producers manufacture tea, the major chunk of the green leaves comes from the small tea growers (STG) sector, they pointed out. Packagers and blenders take the final products to the end customers. If the quality of green leaves is not maintained and the blenders are not brought under control, the quality of the end product cannot be ensured.
They called for a benchmark price of green tea leaves at Rs 25 to Rs 30 per kg, with the provision of 40 per cent fine leaves. And to bring the packagers and blenders under control, there should be a system for labelling, stating the place of origin and the rate of tea offered for sale. In the name of Assam tea, blenders and packagers are selling low quality tea of other tea-growing regions, bringing disrepute to Assam tea, which is a celebrated brand, the tea captains alleged.
They also urged the Government to extend support to STGs in acquiring machines, etc., for quality plucking. Lack of pluckers has been affecting the harvest quality in the STG sector which, in the long run, also affects the quality of Assam tea.
The tea industry captains also called for steps to install 700 more ATMs in the tea garden areas of the State to make digital payment of wages possible.
Vivek Goenka, chairman of CCPA and Indian Tea Association (ITA); Arijit Raha, secretary general, CCPA and ITA; Bidyananda Barkakoty, adviser, North Eastern Tea Association (NETA); JS Kandal, MD, Amalgamated Plantations; Abhijit Sarma, convener, Assam Valley CCPA and secretary ABITA; Nazrana Ahmed, chairman, Assam Tea Planters' Association and PK Bhattacharjee, secretary general, Tea Association of India, addressed the press conference. Bharatiya Cha Parishad chairman Mrigendra Jalan and NETA chairman Nepul Saikia were also present on the occasion.