SILCHAR, Feb 28: High costs of production, power shortage, lack of irrigation and climate change among others have adversely affected tea productivity in Barak Valley. In fact, there has been a global decline in production. The biggest challenge before the tea industry is how to achieve a rise in prices which is adequate to sustain the viability. This will be a subject to be introspected in the team up event 2016 scheduled in the second week of April.
Of course, ONGC has shown some ray of hope with its scheme of ‘green gas’, the prospect of which is potential in this valley. Besides, strategy and policy to boost up production and help in sustaibility have been elaborately dealt with. All these issues have been deliberated by the dignitaries of the tea industry on the occasion of the 115th annual general meeting of the Surma Valley Branch Indian Tea Association (SVBITA) in Cachar Club held on Saturday.
If the ‘green gas’ project becomes a reality, the tea gardens in the hour of power cuts depending upon costly diesel run generators can offset the budget for power. Along with that, tea industry has some good news on the export front. The increased demand from traditiol markets of Russia and Iran among others has prompted the tea board of India to conceptualize a strategic paper. Adopting the ‘Make in India’ policy for promoting business in super markets in the West, besides protecting existing markets like UK, Germany, Kazakhstan, Russia, USA, Chi, Iran, Egypt and Chile in Latin America.
The tea industry has also to adopt strategies like rain water harvesting, application of proper agro-techniques for magement of drought like situation, development of high quality organic manure for maximizing carbon sequestration potential of tea eco system to mitigate the adverse impact of climate change, the most critical environmental challenge. In order to boost up domestic tea consumption, ITA in coordition with the Tea Board of India embarked upon a generic promotion campaign by organizing road-shows. It was followed by a campaign to encourage youths to accept tea as a lifestyle drink fit for all occasions.
The need for improvement of the roads and tiol highways along with the opening of waterways through Bangladesh between Karimganj and Kolkata has to be taken up. This will reduce the high inland transport costs. This will become the most viable mode of transportation of our teas and other inputs. Critical amongst inputs is coal, the only available fuel for production. There has been disruption in supply of Meghalaya coal due to a ruling on mining by the Green Tribul. A long term strategy for bulk procurements at economic rates merits consideration. Development of transportation mode like inland water route is important as an altertive.
During the lean season, tea industry has to face the problem of irrigating the bushes. The industry has taken it up on priority. Various initiatives for dedicated feeders have been taken up by the Surma Valley Branch of ITA. For this, a cluster approach could be explored. Additiolly, the ITA has approached the Central Government for extending coverage of irrigation schemes to tea plantations.
The tea industry on its part has welcomed the decision of Assam government to initiate a comprehensive policy in the larger interest of overall growth, development and sustaibility of the tea sector. A draft policy document covering a number of critical areas such as land, taxation, climate change, workers issues, small growers, tea tourism, quality and food has been submitted to the state government.
The tea industry of this valley provides employment to 1.5 lakh people. District level officials are involved in reaching the benefits of tiol Rural Health Mission (NRHM), public distribution system (PDS) and ensuring the minimum prescribed bonus as well as laying stress on sanitation for better life of the tea workers. Those who articulated their views on the challenges faced by tea industry included Dr. Anwaruddin Choudhury, divisiol commissioner, Barak Valley, Gurmeet Singh Pahwa, chairman, SBVITA, J B Shisodia, executive member, TAI, Bhaskar Chaliha, secretary, SBVITA, and A Raha, secretary general, ITA.