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Small tea growers demand hike in rate of green leaves

* 1.50 lakh entrepreneurs share 37% of total production in Assam

A CORRESPONDENT

KOKRAJHAR, July 6: The small tea growers of the State including those in the BTC region today expressed their incapability to pay Rs 244 per day to the unorganized daily wage labourers working in their gardens and demanded a hike of rate on green leaves. There are 1.50 lakh small tea growers in the State. They contribute to 37 per cent of the total tea production in Assam.

The tea growers opposed the regulation of the government on payment to labourers especially in the unorganized sector at a joint meeting of the All Assam Small Tea Growers Council (AASTGC) and the All Bodoland Small Tea Growers’ Association (ABSTGA) held in the conference hall of District Industries and Commerce Centre, here on Friday with Jousrang Boro, president of ABSTGA in the chair. Around one hundred small tea growers took part in the meeting where some vital issues of the growers including their common problems were discussed.

Later, talking to reporters, ABSTGA president Jousrang Boro said the small tea growers have been facing many problems since long, and specifically pointed to the lack of control over the rate of green leaves.

Stating that the government has instructed the small tea growers to pay Rs 244 per day (including logistic support) to the workers, he added that it was not possible for the small tea growers to pay that amount to the workers. He pointed out that they have to sell the green leaves at a rate of Rs. 18-22 per kg to the factories of the large tea companies.

The rate of green leaves has not changed since the last thirty years and they have to sell the green leaves at rates ranging from Rs 15 to 18 and 22 per kg while ancillary costs including that of fertilizers and pesticides as well as maintenance costs have all gone up, Boro said, adding that they had no objection to pay Rs 244 per day to the workers if the government fixed the rate of green leaves at Rs. 30-35 per kg.

Boro further said that on many occasions, the small tea growers have to cut off the trees during the rainy season. Besides, production depends on the weather condition and sometimes, they have to approach the big factory for selling the green leaves that are often reluctant to buy it even at the minimal normal rate.

He further alleged that the middlemen had been playing a role in fixing the rates and therefore stressed that there is an urgent need to control the rate of green leaves.

The general secretary of AASTGC, Diganta Phukan pointed out that though there is a District Monitoring Committee to look into the fixation of rate and other issues yet the committee has been keeping mum on the problems of the small tea growers. Stressing that the State Government should take the initiative to control the rate, Phukan added that the State government should also do away with middlemen. He pointed out that though prices had been rising yet the rate of green leaves (of the small tea growers) has not been increased.