Tea cost study to frame policies

Siliguri, May 27: A five-member team from the Calcutta-based Institute of Cost & Works Accountants of India (ICWAI) is in north Bengal now to assess the cost involved in the cultivation of tealeaves and the production of made tea.

“Assessing the costs incurred by the stakeholders of tea industry is essential while deciding on policies and schemes,” said Amal Roy Choudhury, the deputy director (plantations) of the Tea Board of India. “The team is here to determine separately the costs of production in the Terai, Dooars, and Darjeeling.”

The cost determination exercise was earlier conducted in 2003. The report was taken into consideration by the Union commerce and industry ministry, which, through the tea board, finalised the price sharing formula among small growers and bought-leaf factories (BLFs).

Led by A. K. Kar, the chief executive officer (accounts technician), the team went to Jalpaiguri today and met small tea growers.

“We hand over questionnaires to the stakeholders and explain to them about the contents,” Kar said over the phone from Jalpaiguri. “They need to fill them up with information pertinent to the costs. These include financial data, age of tea bushes in plantations and the productivity of workers.”

“We will determine the costs of producing tealeaves in small plantations and estates and the manufacturing cost incurred by bought-leaf factories (BLFs) and estates in this region,” said the ICWAI official.

The task has already been completed in the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu and the ICWAI’s next destination is Assam.

“Given the nature of information we need, it is not possible for the stakeholders to provide the data immediately,” said Kar. “We are now concentrating on distributing the questionnaires and will be back after a fortnight or so to collect them. Correspondences would be made with companies to obtain information on estates.”

The data, experts said, can be of use by the government when it executes proposals and plans. If the centre mulls over the proposal of the planters to share the social costs, the data will be considered, they said.