Small growers on saving spree for tea factory

Siliguri, Nov. 5: A group of small tea growers of Jalpaiguri is contemplating setting up a factory by 2010 by saving Re 1 from every kg of tealeaves sold.

The 300-plus members of the Panbari Small Tea Growers’ Society in Jalpaiguri’s Mainaguri block have been mobilising funds for the past one year for the factory which they claim will be the first of its kind in the country.

The society has recently been identified as a model self-help group by the Tea Board of India. Small growers are spread over four tea producing states of Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

“The members of the society have agreed to keep aside Re 1 for every kg of tealeaves sold by them. As their annual sale is around 18-20 lakh kg, they can garner Rs 40-60 lakh by 2010,” said Bijoygopal Chakraborty, the vice-president of the United Forum of Small Tea Growers’ Associations. “An investment of Rs 1.50 crore is necessary to set up the factory if the tealeaves produced by them need to be processed in the plant.”

While the society members will contribute to the factory, they will also ask for subsidy from the tea board for building the plant. “We are also taking up the matter with Nabard for additional funds,” Chakraborty said.

The society has 317 members with the plantation spread across 800 acres, which is almost the area of a tea estate. Recently, the members have purchased a plot of five bighas in the area for constructing the factory.

“The factory will be the first in India to be set up by small growers,” said Badal Debnath, a society member.

Tea board officials are keen to see the factory coming up at Panbari. “The society members are doing excellent work but it will definitely take some time for them to assimilate the funds. We cannot fund the entire project because of some limitations,” G. Boriah, the director (tea development) of the board, told The Telegraph from Calcutta today.

“Once the factory comes up, we will encourage more such plants to help small growers process their tealeaves,” Boriah said.

The board has decided to open small growers’ cells in all tea producing states in the country. The ones in Jalpaiguri and Dibrugarh will be opened soon, he added.

“These offices will take care of the small growers. The Union commerce and industry ministry has sanctioned 11 posts for them.”


Anonymous said...

I'll buy some shares in that....

Mithileshwar Jha said...

This is a very good attempt by the small tea growers association. I really admire the dream of Bijoy da and his team. It would be a dream project and would be a land mark in North Bengal. I would be very happy to see the dream project come true as I had been associated with the cause of small tea growers in jalpaiguri for long.

__Mithileshwar Jha
Ex DDM, NABARD, Jalpaiguri