Small tea growers demand easy cash

Siliguri, Dec. 9: Small tea growers in India will hold their two-day annual general meeting in Jalpaiguri and demand that funds should be made easily available for them.

Bijoygopal Chakraborty, the vice-president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers’ Associations (Cista), said in Jalpaiguri today that the meeting would be held on December 14 and 15 and farmers from all tea-producing states in the country and special invitees from Nepal and Bangladesh would be present.

As Union minister of state for commerce and power Jairam Ramesh and Tea Board of India chairman Basudeb Banerjee are scheduled to attend the inaugural function, the organisers will use the forum to raise a number of issues the growers face and to place some demands.

Chakraborty said the farmers would demand the formulation of a policy to determine the floor price of tealeaves so that the growers would not incur losses. A separate directorate for small growers, establishment of financial link with banks and other lending institutions to ensure availability of working capital to growers and simplification of the process to get them registered with the tea board are the other demands.

“We will also ask the government to introduce plantation credit cards which will ensure funds and fertilisers,” said Chakraborty. He also wanted the representatives of Cista to be included in the policy making process in the commerce ministry or the tea board. He said there should be a special drive to open mini factories for small growers.

Growers from Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Tripura, Bihar and Arunachal Pradesh will be present at the meeting. They will also attend a seminar on “challenges for strengthening small tea growers’ society or self-help groups as business units”.

Sources said there were around 2.5 lakh small growers across the country, contributing 25 per cent of India’s total tea production.

“We will also celebrate International Tea Day on December 15 at Islampur in North Dinajpur. A number of Bengal ministers will be present at the programme,” said Chakraborty.

“The small growers will organise a rally, street plays, puppet show and traditional dances as part of a campaign to promote the beverage,” he added.