Small tea growers want more BLFs in north Bengal

SILIGURI, Oct. 29: The small tea growers of north Bengal have demanded an immediate annulment of the state government's prohibitory order on setting up of new Brought Leaf Factories (BLF) in the region.

According to the small tea growers, the absence of ‘adequate’ number of BLF's was hitting the small gardens across the region, as many a times there are no takers of the green leaves produced.

“In the past seven years, there have been a considerable rise in the number of small tea growers across north Bengal, while the prohibition on setting up new BLFs since 2001 is preventing the corresponding increase in the number Brought Leaf Factories over here.

As a result of this, the supply of green leaves is higher than what the existing BLFs can absorb. Hence, the small growers are fetching a lesser price for their produce,” said Mr Sanjit Paul, convener of the Small Tea Gardens Forum (STGF) affiliated to the Indian Tea Planters’ Association (ITPA).

As per the figures provided by him, early this month a kg of green leaves was fetching something around Rs 5.50 to Rs 6, which has now risen a little higher to Rs 8.50 per kg.

“Considering the higher price that ‘made tea’ is fetching in the auctions this season, these prices are very low. Unless the state government permits more BLFs to come up, the small growers will continue to be exploited,” Mr Paul said.
The Small Tea Gardens Forum has recently sent a memorandum to the principal secretary of the state commerce and industries department urging the annulment of the prohibitory order on the establishment of new BLFs in the region.

The bar on new BLFs was promulgated to ensure that the existing BLFs and tea estates would run as per their capacity. As of now, there are nearly 78 BLFs in north Bengal as opposed to the 15,000 small tea growers across the region.