Tea Board largesse for gardens

Nagrakata (Jalpaiguri), Feb. 10: The Tea Board of India has decided to extend some additional financial help to the sector.

At the 37th annual general meeting of the North Bengal branch of the tea Association of India (TAI) held at Nagrakata Club here yesterday, Roshni Sen, deputy chairperson of the board, said both small and large scale tea growers could obtain government subsidies for different development schemes.

“To avail of subsidies, it is essential that schemes are planned properly,” Sen said in her speech. She said assistance would be under the 11th Five Year Plan and would not be a part of the SPTF (special purpose tea fund) for rejuvenation and re-plantation of tea bushes.

The financial help, Sen said, includes 25 per cent subsidies on drainage, purchase of vehicles, and sanitation and drinking water schemes. “Improvement of drainage system in tea gardens is a key area to be taken care of,” she said.

Once the schemes are approved, up to 25 per cent of the total project cost will be subsidised by the board. The deputy chairperson assured the meeting that funds under SPTF would be disbursed soon. Under this scheme, a 25 percent subsidy will be given on the vehicles used to carry away and dump uprooted bushes and bring tea saplings.

If small tea growers set up mini factories, the Board will dole out 50 per cent subsidy for buying machines.

At the meeting, office-bearers of the TAI presented data that showed that the production and export of tea had fallen last year.

The total tea production registered in 2007 was 945 million kg as against 956 million kg in 2006. While 219 million kg tea was exported in 2006, only 157 million kg was sold overseas in 2007. The import, however, was only 15 million kg last year compared to 24 million kg in 2006.

Reacting to the demand by the TAI officials that branding of tea produced in the Terai and Dooars — that accounted for 25 per cent of the total production in India — should be branded to boost trade, Sen said a logo was being created for the produce in the region. She, however, added that several legal issues were to be tackled before getting the logo registered. She hoped that the task would be accomplished by the end of this year.

Sen also said an electronic auction system would be launched in Calcutta. “If the system there is successful, it will be replicated at all other auction centres in India.”