GUWAHATI:Nearly nine months after the Assam Government announced to fix a minimum price for green leaf, the issue still hangs in the balance causing resentment in the State's beleaguered tea industry.
On September 20, 2019, Industries and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said that the government had asked the Tea Board of India to fix the minimum price at the earliest.
"The Tea Board is yet to reach at a consensus to resolve the issue. It is a complex issue since the minimum price will not be a support price. There will be unsold green leaf at that price which the small tea growers would have to destroy which they would not like to happen under any circumstances. Fixing of the minimum price for green leaf can be done only through wide-ranging stakeholder consultations and not unilaterally," a source in the tea industry said.
Sources said that the Tea Board last year constituted a committee to discuss the issue threadbare by including representatives from different segments of the tea industry. But the committee could not hold any meeting with all the stakeholders till February this year. With the outbreak of COVID-19 and resultant nation-wide lockdown, the issue has been put on the backburner.
"Small tea growers would receive a major boost in their income in case the Tea Board fixes the minimum price for green leaf. The greatest challenge being faced by small tea growers is that the prices they get for green leaf is never sufficient to meet the cost of production, threatening their income security and plunging them into chronic indebtedness," the source said.
On an average, the growers get only Rs 9 and Rs 7 in Bengal and Tamil Nadu/Kerala whereas the cost of production is Rs 15.50 and Rs 18.50 respectively. In Assam, farmers receive Rs 14 whereas the cost of production is Rs 18.50.
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