GUWAHATI: The small tea growers of the state felt the worst jolt at the beginning of this tea season when the price of green leaves fell as low as Rs 12 per kg in some districts. This price, growers say, does not even cover the production cost, let alone profit.
In the absence of any MSP (Minimum Support Price) for green tea leaves in the state, the indigenous tea growers have sent an SOS (Save Our Soul) plea to the State Government to rescue them from this dismal situation.
The small growers of the state contribute green leaves that makeup around half of the total tea production in the state. According to the All Assam Small Tea Growers'Association (AASTGA), the state has around 1.50 lakh indigenous small tea growers who have made it possible for around 15 lakh people to keep their ovens burning.
Some of the districts in upper Assam witnessed early rainfall this year, leading to the onset of the tea season earlier – by March-end. April-May-June-July is the best period for tea season in Assam.
The tea growers' association has been demanding MSP for green tea leaves, but their demand continues to fall on the deaf ear of the authorities concerned. Small tea growers of the state have felt the severest jolt this year on the price line.
Talking to The Sentinel, AASTGA general secretary Karuna Mahanta said, "We have repeatedly requested the State Government and the Tea Board of India to fix MSP for green tea leaves at Rs 40 per kg. Let the bought leaf factories and big tea gardens buy quality green tea leaves and produce quality tea to keep the reputation of Assam tea intact in the domestic and international markets. Our plea continues to fall on the deaf ear of the authorities concerned.
"It so happened this year that the price of green tea leaves has fallen as low as Rs 12 per kg at Dhekiajuli in the Sonitpur district. It is far below the production cost, let alone profit. The price line in other districts is no better either. Every district has a monitoring committee led by the deputy commissioner to keep a close watch on the price of green tea leaves. But such committees are not active. Bought leaf factories say that they cannot sell tea in the market. They keep lowering the price of green leaves on this pretext. We see in the market that even the price tag of the lowest quality tea is Rs 280-300 per kg in the domestic market. We request the Chief Minister and his government to see the plight of the small tea growers vis-à-vis MSP."
Karuna Mahanta is also the vice president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers'Association.