GUWAHATI: Assam's tea industry is suffering from the COVID-19-induced lockdown. As of now the industry has incurred a loss of around Rs 1,059 crore in revenue, stated the 'Report on Tea Industry of Assam in the COVID Pandemic'.
The State Innovation and Transformation Aayog (SITA), Government of Assam in collaboration with Ernst and Young LLP studied the impact and submitted the report to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal recently.
The 'Report on Tea Industry of Assam in the COVID Pandemic' states that the annual tea production for 2020 has been estimated at 742.6 million kg. Based on that, as on today, the production loss of the tea industry is estimated at 69.38 million kg. Considering the average price of 2019, the revenue loss of Assam's tea industry is estimated at Rs. 1,059 crore.
The report stated that the tea gardens have stopped operations from March 25 till April 14. Government of India has allowed the tea gardens to operate with 50 per cent workforce. Due to prolonged lockdown, tea leaves have overgrown and nearly a third of the crops must be skiffed. Skiffing itself shall take 14-21 days and involve considerable amount of labour cost. Due to the seasonal nature of the industry, plucking generally begins by mid-March. Hence, it is assumed that plucking in tea gardens was limited to 6 days and hence 80 per cent (32.9 million kgs) of the crops for the month of March were lost. Similarly, in April plucking was limited to 5 to 7 days and thus, 72.5 per cent (32.8 million kgs) crops were lost. In May, the plucking was done for around 25 to 27 days. Around 5 per cent (3.43 million kgs) production was lost during the month. The total estimated losses incurred in these three months are 69.38 million kgs.
The organizations also submitted some recommendations to revive the sector. They have proposed short term (3 months), and medium and long term measures (6 months to 1 year) to boost the sector. Among the short term measures, the report mentioned that the Directorate of Tea should ensure that all benefits eligible to tea workers under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMMGKAY), PMJDY and PM Ujjawala Yojana should be available. Among the long term measures – Government of Assam may consider maintaining a price stabilization fund to manage price volatilities or any disruptive situation like the current pandemic. The tea sector of Assam needs to adopt new technologies like Fine Lead Count (FLC) tech driven by Artificial Intelligence and data driven technologies which help remove human bias, recommended the organizations. The report suggested that the Government need to develop an integrated marketing and promotion plan to promote the brand 'Assam Tea' which will help in boosting consumption partners in both domestic and international markets.
The Assam Tea Industry is 197 years old. Assam is the single largest tea growing region in the world and the annual tea production in the State was over 715.75 million kgs in 2019. Out of the total production, 55.19 per cent tea was produced from big growers and 44.81 per cent from small growers.
There are 783 big tea gardens in the State where 7.33 lakh workers are engaged. There are around 1.18 lakh small tea gardens with 3 lakh workers. The State has 508 tea factories with plantation facilities and 290 Bought tea leaf factories without plantation facilities.
The industry contributed nearly 5 percent of Assam Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). Assam Tea Industry played an important role in the State as well the nation economy. In the year 2018-19, Tea worth $ 214 million was exported from Assam's Tea Gardens. Globally, Iran, Russia, UAE, UK, China, USA, Germany and Japan are some of the largest consumers of Assam Tea.
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