DIBRUGARH, Sept 14 – The small tea growers are likely to suffer this year around again with bought leaf tea factory owners signalling for shutdown of factories due to erratic Administered Price Mechanism (APM) natural gas supply to its factories by Assam Gas Company Limited since July.
“ Gas supply has been very erratic this year and is found to go down to zero pressure, as a consequence of which the leaves cannot be manufactured and the factory has to shut down,” Chand Kumar Gohain, chairman, Assam Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers’ Association (ABLTMA) told media persons here today.
As per agreement with the tea factories, the Assam Gas Company has to supply gas for 16 to 24 hours a day at 4 kg/cm2 at factory end. But the gas pressure is very irregular and the pressure is found below 1 kg/cm2 resulting in loss of production, the ABLTMA chairman said. He further said that due to gas supply failure, the un-manufactured leaves of the previous day continues to be stored in the troughs and the leaves of next day start arriving in the factory. The factories are unable to purchase the leaves and a situation has now arisen whereby the factories will have to stop purchasing the green leaves. It is a perishable commodity and if not manufactured within 24 hours from its plucking, the leaves start perishing and the tea made from such leaves is of very poor quality and fetches very low rates in the market.
Under the prevailing situation, refusal to purchase green tea leaves from growers might snowball into a law and order problem like in the earlier years. It is to be noted that about 40% to 45% of total
annual production is produced in August, September and October.
During these months, non-availability of gas has resulted in loss of production, the ABLTMA has said.
The Minister for Power, Commerce and Industries, Pradyut Bordoloi, after holding meetings with Oil India Limited, Assam Gas Company Limited and representatives of tea industries and tea factory owners recently at the Circuit House here, had asked the media persons to believe that gas supply was disrupted due to frequent bandhs. Given that gas supply has been disrupted even on days when bandhs were not called, it is certain that there are other reasons as well, which the competent authorities have refused to admit. There was no bandh in the last ten days but the gas supply has been erratic in the last four days in Borborooah and Doomdooma areas.