DIBRUGARH, June 11 – The unorganized sector of tea industry is having the bitter taste of their teas as MGVK Bhanu, the Chairman of Tea Board of India has ordered to disconnect the electricity line to those factories which are averse to displaying their price offer for green leaf.
Similarly, he also ordered to cancel permit of those green leaf supply agents who will indulge in supplying low quality leaf or hop from factory to factory, bargaining for their leaf in violation of agreement. The newly appointed chairman is firm on putting the Tea Marketing Control Order (TMCO), the formula to determine price for green tea leaves payable to the growers, in place and this has made the small sector happy.
Co-founder of the All Assam Small Tea Growers’ Association Hemanta Gohain said that the small tea growers have found some solace in the words of chairman MGVK Bhanu. “However, if his words cannot be translated into action, the small tea growers will remain to be exploited by the tea factory owners,” Gohain said. He said that small tea growers in the State are hopeful that the new Tea Board chairman would redeem them from the exploitation of the powerful in the tea industry.
Assam Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers’ Association (ABLTMA), which for long has been complaining of poor quality green tea leaves during the peak season, has also welcomed the stern measures adopted by the chairman to ensure supply of quality green tea leaves to the factories. The association in a statement expressed satisfaction over the initiative of the Tea Board chairman. However, how the Tea Board could make the errant suppliers to supply good quality leaf in the peak season, particularly when the number of pluckers begin to dwindle, remains to be answered. Tea not being primary cultivation for many of the growers gets only second priority after paddy. Most of the small tea growers and their workers keep themselves engaged in paddy fields during the peak season. In such a situation, unless mechanized plucking is widely introduced, small growers’ leaf will remain substandard, especially during the peak season. This will certainly demolish the dream of not allowing to make teas below Rs 80 per kg.
As of now, the Tea Board chairman’s attempt to restrain the growers’ untamed desire to pluck coarse leaf to make quick money is seen as a welcome step. Now the organized sector will not be able to pick and choose the supply of leaf if the prowess of the TMCO is made effective.
This will also relieve the Bought Leaf Tea Factories from undergoing tremendous stress during the post-puja supply of leaf which back-flows from the organized sector factories. At the same time the small growers will not have to dump their green tea leaves on the highways out of rage.
While restriction is being imposed on establishing tea factories by individual entrepreneurs even in surplus leaf producing blocks, expansion of the organized sector factories is being tacitly countenanced, as alleged by the members from the ABLTMA. This dichotomy of principle needs to be seriously questioned by local youths. In certain districts, big manufacturers are monopolising the right to manufacture green leaf at an unreasonably low green leaf price. If one is a sole manufacturer in a given catchment area and within 5 km radius no factory is allowed to come up, the former will be depriving the green leaf sellers from their legitimate price despite complying with the TMCO. This negation of the TMCO spirit has to be looked into by the Tea Board.