Centre's quality scheme likely to bypass 90 per cent Assam gardens
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, Sept 11: A clause in the Centrally-sponsored Quality Upgradation and Product Diversification Scheme (QUPDS) has been a stumbling block for the State tea growers to avail of the scheme's benefit.
The North Eastern Tea Association has urged Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to withdraw the clause which states that to avail the benefits of the scheme, a factory has to submit documentary proof that it has exported 20 per cent of its annual produce.
According to the association's chairman Bidyanda Barkakoty, majority of tea growers in the State do not have export licenses.
"Eighty per cent of the export is done by merchant exporters. Only about 20 per cent of the export is directly from the producers. Moreover, there are many tea growers who have a single garden and it is not economically feasible for them to go for export," Barkakoty said. In such a scerio, he said, 90 per cent of the gardens will not be able to meet the criteria stipulated under the scheme. The new criterion is part of 22 conditions formulated in the revised QUPDS scheme under the XII Plan. The scheme was popular in the previous Plan period.
Under the scheme, the government provides subsidies for replacement and upgradation of old machines.
"We fear that if we are not able to avail of the benefits under the scheme, the quality of Assam Tea may deteriorate. The tea industry has suffered huge losses during the last two years, making it impossible for most growers to put in fresh investment in plant and machinery," Barkakoty told The Sentinel.
There are around 750 gardens and 250 brought leaf factories in the State which produce around 500 million kgs annually.