GUWAHATI: The NETA (North East Tea Association) has requested Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for special incentives for the tea producers-exporters of the Northeast under the Act East Policy so as to encourage the producers to export tea. The association said that tea is a ‘ready industry’ for exporting its produce to East and South Asian nations.
The Association has further told Sitharaman that the tea industry is highly labour intensive and 60 percent of the cost goes in paying wages. “Tea industry is half agriculture and the majority of the tea estates are located in rural areas without proper banking facility. Therefore, tea estates can be exempted from 2 percent TDS till ATMs are installed with seamless internet connectivity,” the Association said.
With a request to the Union Finance Minister, NETA adviser Bidyananda Barkatoky said, “Tea industry is in a precarious financial problem. Almost all the organized tea gardens with extensive permanent labour force, falling yields, stagnant prices and rapid increase in the input cost have made this entire industry a totally non-viable business proposition. Lakhs of people’s livelihood is dependent upon this industry. Can there be a bailout package for the tea industry? Can the government consider a 4 per cent interest subvention on the outstanding working capital loan availed from banks for a period of five years?”
The NETA has said that except Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal, all other countries of ASEAN and BIMSTEC do not produce any significant quantity of tea but at the same time they are all tea drinking nations. “Assam has the unique locational advantage of being the closest landmass of the vibrant economies of the South East Asian countries. North East India is the only part of India having physical contiguity with the ASEAN region and considering the population mass of 800 million comprising North East India, ASEAN and BBN countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal), the entire region is a huge market,” it said.