GUWAHATI, Sept 11 - Any attempt at revitalizing the ailing tea industry of the State should take into consideration the issue of fixing a minimum price for the green tea leaf. Otherwise, all attempts at infusing life in this century-old industry will go to waste, said captains of the tea industry.
Contribution of the Small Tea Growing (STG) sector to the total green leaf production in the State has now come to almost at par with the organised sector. But it is an admitted fact that green leaf production cost of the two sectors differs immensely.
The cost factor has put the organised sector of the industry in a disadvantageous position. Faced with such a situation, the Joint Forum of Assam Tea Planters’ Association (ATPA), the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) and the Bharatiya Cha Parishad (BCP), the three State-based tea producers’ associations, feels it imperative to fix the minimum price of the green tea leaf produced by the STG sector. But, this price should not be lower than the cost of green tea leaf produced by the organised sector.
If such a step is taken in this regard, it will not only help the small growers to earn better against their produces, but will also help in fulfilling the Union Government’s ambitious plan of doubling the farmers’ income by 2022, the organised sector’s representatives said.
According to ATPA chairperson Dr Nazrana Ahmed, fixing a minimum price of green leaf will ensure sustainability of quality tea of Assam.
Chairman of the NETA Nipul Saikia said minimum support price (MSP) and fixing a floor price for green tea leaf is different. The tea industry of the State is not asking for MSP, rather it is pleading for fixing a minimum price for the green tea leaf.
BCP chairman Mrigendra Jalan is of the opinion that unless the price of green tea leaf for the STG sector goes up substantially, the small growers will not be able to pay even the agricultural minimum wages to their workers. Over four lakh workers are engaged in the STG sector of the State.
The welfare and the uplift of such a huge workforce should be a concern of all the stakeholders, he said.
General secretary of the All Assam Small Tea Growers’ Association (AASTGA) Karuna Mahanta welcomed the suggestion for fixing a minimum price for green tea leaf and demanded that the minimum price should not be below Rs 30 per kg.
NETA advisor Bidyananda Barkakoty said that the floor price of green leaf should be between Rs 25 and Rs 30, with or without a rider that the minimum acceptable fine leaf should be 40 per cent.
This is minimum price of green leaf with minimum acceptable fine leaf percentage. Industry is at liberty to pay more for better fine percentage of green leaf, he said.
“But the price should be fixed for both Assam and West Bengal, the two major tea producing states of North India. Otherwise, if it is fixed for Assam alone, then it will have a negative impact on Assam tea”, Barkakoty warned.