GUWAHATI, July 23: The Indian Tea Association (ITA) has urged the Assam Government to restore the erstwhile system of distribution of food grains among tea workers through the garden management to give relief to the tea industry from rising cost of production.
An ITA official told this correspondent that the association has apprised Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma as how the tea industry is facing it tough to make open market purchases at exorbitant rates to provide ration at concessional rates to workers and dependents.
“This is becoming difficult to sustain and the state government has been requested to restore the erstwhile system of distribution of food grains through the management as is provided in Bengal. The higher costs incurred on account of food grains puts the Assam tea producer at a competitive disadvantage in the domestic market space when compared to the tea producer in Bengal,” the official said, adding that the industry is under acute stress because of tea prices remaining stagnant over the last five years.
Buckling under increasing production cost and low prices of green leaf, the IMA recently told Dispur that many gardens in the State will have to close their shutters if they are forced to pay the interim hike of daily wages of tea workers.
The State government recently enhanced daily wages of tea workers by an interim amount of Rs 30 per day. The hike will have to be implemented with retrospective effect from March 1 this year. Once the interim hike comes into effect the composite minimum wages of tea workers will stand at around Rs 351 per day. The composite wages includes the cash and kind components, including facilities of housing, ration, fuel, etc., provided to the workers.
“As labour costs constitute 60 per cent of the total cost of production, an increase in cash wage will have far reaching consequences on the sustainability of the entire supply chain including small tea growers’ segment of the tea industry. Thus the State Government will have to come out with measures to bail out the industry from its present crisis of very high cost of production. Restoration of the earlier system of distribution of food grains among tea workers by the government through the garden management will be one such big measure,” the official said.