GUWAHATI: More than 800 tea manufacturing and bottling factories across Assam are facing an acute shortage of coal. This has led to a downslide in their overall production of tea. Various tea associations have moved the State government to bail out this vital sector for the present power crisis.
Highly placed sources in the sector added that around 50% of the tea production units in Assam depend on coal as the prime source of energy for various processes. The major share of these imported black diamond power sources to the tea factories is from Dima Hasao District and Margherita in Tinsukia District.
The sources also pointed out that primarily the tea factories in Barak Valley, North Bank and middle Assam depend on imported coal sources.
It has been further learnt that these mentioned tea factories and bottling units need an annual amount of approximately 3.50 lakh MT (metric tonne) of coal (as their prime source of energy). During the last two months, the supply of coal from the local sources has diminished to a considerable extent.
As a result, the crisis has compelled the local tea entrepreneurs to import coal at a higher rate from the neighbouring States of Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh besides Bihar.
Official data indicate that the local tea producers are now paying around Rs 13,000 per MT. The crux of the matter lies in the fact that these same clients of Assam had paid Rs 9,000 for the same consignment. This is having a cascading effect on the overall tea-production expenses.
The sources explained that the present hike in the cost of coal is because of two main factors, viz., scarcity of coal and the hike in the fuel prices.
Sources also added, "We have not yet received any information from the Assam government as to why the coal supplies from Margherita and Dima Hasao have been suddenly halted. We are in the dark presently. Hence, we appeal to the authorities concerned to inform us beforehand and also assure us of an intermediate option. This will provide us a support base during this period which commenced around two months back."
The sources also pointed out, "The gas-run tea factories in upper Assam are running smoothly. Only the coal-based tea factories are in the doldrums."