Cash-and-carry settlements have been introduced at all auction centres in southern India quite some time ago, but buyers and auctioneers in the east have resisted it so far

Kolkata: The Tea Board of India has said it will only allow cash-and-carry settlements of auctions, after auctioneer Carritt Moran and Co. Pvt. Ltd defaulted on payments to tea producers.

The board said in its 22 January order that auctioneers should release tea from warehouses only after buyers pay. This will be effective from the next auction—sale 5—scheduled next week at Kolkata, Guwahati and Siliguri.

“The move is aimed at discouraging brokers from giving cash credit to buyers,” said Roshni Sen, deputy chairman of the board. “Our aim eventually is to stamp out the practice of lending to buyers and producers, for which auctioneers such as Carritt are suffering.”

The 131-year-old Carritt Moran, the world’s second largest tea auctioneer, went belly up after failing to pay producers and was found to have diverted money paid to it by buyers to service its own debts.

The board will appoint a settlement banker so that auctioneers don’t settle trades on their own. “Four private banks have already made presentations, and we expect to appoint a settlement banker within a month or so,” said Sen.

India produces around 950 million kg of tea a year, half of which is auctioned.
Cash-and-carry settlements have been introduced at all auction centres in southern India quite some time ago, but buyers and auctioneers in the east have resisted it so far.

“The Tea Board has been contemplating the introduction of cash-and-carry settlement for quite some time... The fall of Carritt has given (it) the strength to push through systemic reforms,” Sen said.

Buyers currently have to pay within 14 days—called prompt period. Though this is not being reduced immediately, the National Stock Exchange (NSE) has suggested that it should be cut to three days. Sen said the board it still considering NSE’s suggestions. However, brokers are not permitted to extend credit to buyers beyond the prompt period.

Some buyers are opposing cash-and-carry because they fear for their survival without credit from auctioneers, said Rabindra Nath De, director of Star Tea Co. Pvt. Ltd. “But the Tea Board doesn’t seem to be in a mood to budge.”

McLeod Russel India Ltd, the world’s biggest tea plantation company, is happy with the move, however. The auction system will be more foolproof, said Aditya Khaitan, managing director of McLeod Russel.

Author: Aveek Datta
From: LiveMint

Mixed response to Tea

Tea met with mixed response in the sale held here on January 8 and 9. A total of over 14.68 lakh kg of tea were offered in the sale.

In the Orthodox Leaf market whole-leaf grades met with fair demand and sold at irregularly lower levels by a rupee to Rs two. The secondaries and fannings were absorbed at barely steady levels.

Selective demand was witnessed on the range of teas on offer in the CTC leaf market due to non-movement of teas to their destinations because of the All India Trucker strike.

Select brighter liquoring teas fetched dearer prices on competition while the others were fully firm. The better medium and medium sorts were irregular and lower by up to a rupee.

However, the plainer teas met with good demand and sold at firm to occasionally dearer levels, especially the cleaner and blacker varieties.

Select flavoury primary dusts met with good demand and sold at premium levels while the others were irregular and lower in the orthodox dust market. Leaf secondaries were irregularly lower by up to Rs two, while the powdery residuals were absorbed at last levels.

Good demand was witnessed on the brighter liquoring teas which were absorbed at firm to dearer rates in the CTC dust market.

From PTI

Tata Tea Q3 Group Net Profit Drops, Absent Of Year-Ago Gain

Friday, Tata Tea Ltd., the largest tea manufacturing company in India, reported a lower consolidated net profit for the third-quarter in the absence of a year-ago gain from the stock sale. However, on standalone basis, the company reported higher net profit for the quarter.

Consolidated Results

The Kolkata-based company posted third-quarter consolidated net profit of Rs.396.12 crore or Rs.64.06 per share, 69% lower than Rs.1,292.22 crore or Rs.208.96 per share in the third-quarter of 2007, which included a one-time gain of Rs.1,604.74 crore on sale of its stake in Energy Brands Inc.

The company said the previous period's figures have been rearranged to the extent necessary, to conform to the current period's figures. Therefore, the comparative figures have been restated to exclude North India Plantation Division and certain related adjustments effected to make them comparable with the current quarter.

The company said its recent quarter results included a one-time foreign exchange gain of Rs.580.41 crore on restatement of foreign currency deposits/loans, compared with Rs.38.25 crore in the prior-year quarter.

The company's quarterly consolidated revenue from operations increased 15% to Rs.1,300.86 crore from Rs.1,135.56 crore in the year-ago quarter, while other operating income totaled to Rs.5.93 crore, compared with Rs.8.07 crore in the prior year quarter.

During the quarter, revenue from Tea segment rose 12% to Rs.1,013.01 crore from Rs.902.20 core in the corresponding quarter last year, while revenue from Coffee & Other Produce amounted to Rs.285.59 crore, up 20% from Rs.238.94 crore in the year-ago quarter. Revenue from others were Rs.8.19 crore, compared with Rs.2.49 crores in the previous year quarter.

For the first nine months, Tata Tea's consolidated net profit fell 51% to Rs.689.57 crore from Rs.1,417.46 crore in the corresponding period last year. Total revenue grew 13% to Rs.3,647.99 crore from Rs.3,215.51 crore for the comparable period a year-ago.

Standalone Results

The company's third-quarter standalone net profit grew 10% to Rs.48.30 crore from Rs.43.78 crore in the third-quarter of 2007. Total revenue, including other operating income, increased 22% to Rs.382.75 crore from Rs.314.08 crore in the year-ago quarter.

For the Apr-Dec 2008 period, Tata Tea's standalone net profit rose 6% to Rs.129.80 crore from Rs.121.91 crore for the comparable period last year. Total revenue grew 16% to Rs.1,022.04 crore from Rs.878.41 crore for the comparable period a year-ago.

The company said its board has decided to relocate Managing Director, P.T. Singanporia to London, However, he will continue to be the company's Managing Director and will also be responsible for global manufacturing operations as well as buying and blending, supply chain and related activities for some regions.

At the BSE, Tata Tea closed Friday's trading at Rs.607.10, down by Rs.15.95 or 2.56% on a volume of around 49K shares.

Iran to pay for Indian tea in euro now

Kolkata (IANS): Iran has decided to pay India in euros instead of US dollars for the tea it imports from this country, Tea Board of India chief Basudeb Banerjee said after returning from a three-day visit to Iran.

India exports 11-12 million kg of tea to Iran every year at an average price of Rs.107 ($2.22 or 1.64 euro) per kg. Its total 189 mn kg tea export in 2007-08 was worth Rs.18.89 billion (Rs.1,889 crore or $381 million/ 289 million euro) .

"In Tehran we met officials of Asian Clearing Union (ACU) headquartered there where it was decided that due to payment related problems, Iranian importers would start dealing in euro from Jan 15," Banerjee told IANS.

ACU has been promoted by the UN with the central banks of Iran, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as its members.

The delegation was headed by additional secretary in commerce ministry T.K. Chowdhury. Banerjee and representatives of tea producing companies like McLeod Russel and Rossell Tea and also exporters like Shah Brothers Ltd were in the delegation.

"The three-day meeting in Iran (staring from Jan 3) was very successful. We have discussed all the major issues with the deputy ministers there," Banerjee said.

The delegation discussed the registration charge of $7,000 imposed by the Iranian government in 2007 on exporters under the local Good Manufacturing Practices Act.

"The registration charge will remain but earlier there was delay in the process of trading even after paying that charge. Now they have said they will expedite the process," Banerjee said.

Indian exporters considered this charge high and unnecessary as they were already following recognised manufacturing standards like Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP). HACCP is used in the food industry to identify potential food safety hazards.

Earlier, consignments were not cleared from the port despite paying charges, which resulted in demurrage charges imposed on exporters by port authorities.


Tea draft to tap new energy sources

Siliguri, Jan. 28: The West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation, in association with the Tea Board of India, has decided to draft a package to promote the use of renewable and eco-friendly energy sources in the tea estates of north India.

The corporation hopes such a package would help curb pollution and promote conservation of orthodox fuel and energy sources like coal, diesel and electricity.

The decision to formulate the programme aimed at developing the practice of using renewable energy in gardens was taken at a meeting attended by the officials of the tea board and the corporation and secretary of the Union ministry of new and renewable energy Deepak Gupta in Calcutta on January 23.

“In the package, there will be proposals for development of micro-hydel projects in the tea plantations, use of energy generated from leaves and dry biomass instead of diesel, wood, coal and electricity in brew processing units,” S.P. Gon Choudhuri, the managing director of the corporation, said over the phone from Calcutta today.

“If the tea gardens in the Terai and the Dooars, which get good sunlight, can use machines fitted to solar panels to dry processed tealeaves, the existing resources will be saved and pollution will be mitigated to a large extent,” said Choudhuri.

According to him, implementation of these proposals in tea estates can reduce the use of orthodox energy resources and fuels upto 60 per cent and will substantially cut down overheads.

“In a number of tea estates in Darjeeling hills and Assam, there are streams and waterfalls which can be used to generate power sufficient for the garden. However, impediments like capital expenditure for the projects need to be removed by means of subsidies from the Centre and the corporation,” said the official. “We are assessing the tentative costs of the project, extent of benefits that can be reaped from the scheme, subsidies available and obviously the tentative investment by gardens.”

The project has been envisaged for brew belts like Darjeeling, the Terai and the Dooars in Bengal and the entire tea zone of Assam.

Stakeholders of the industry, who were present at the meeting, have appreciated the move.

“By using alternative fuels and renewable energies, it is natural that production costs would come down. If there are subsidies, the industry can feel attracted to the projects that will minimise costs, pollution as well as hazards involved in collecting fuel. We welcome the effort and look forward to see the package being formulated,” said Monojit Dasgupta, secretary-general of the Indian Tea Association.

R-Day prize for garden girls

Jaigaon, Jan. 28: The girls of Chengmari Tea Estate High School in Nagrakata returned today with the second prize for the Republic Day march-past in Calcutta after vying with 15 other institutions from across the state.

The headmaster of the school, Shibkumar Jha, said his institution was the only one from Jalpaiguri district to participate in the march-past, taking the salute from governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi. “We had sent 60 girls, with three teachers accompanying them, to take part in the march-past a month ago. They were put up at the Salt Lake stadium and trained in marching skill by jawans of the Eastern Command at the Maidan,” the headmaster said. He added that Basantapur Jhareswari Bani Bhaban School, West Midnapore, had topped the competition.

He said the marchers were led by Saroja Majhi, a Class IX student who stays with her parents in Rangamati tea garden.

“We became runners-up although we participated for the first time. We were happy to show off our skills to the governor,” said Saroja.

The girls were presented with a gleaming trophy and certificates by Brigadier P.K. Sanyal of the Eastern Command.

“We were stunned by the vastness of the city and we were very glad that we had an opportunity to see Calcutta, something we had never dreamed of,” she said.

The chairman of the school management committee, D.S. Parmar, who is also the manager of the tea estate, said almost all the 2,000 students were the children of garden workers. “I am proud that they brought glory to the school despite the little opportunities they have.”

Today, the students alighted at the Carron station where a reception was hosted for them. The girls walked all 3km with their trophy to reach the school.

The secretary of the school’s managing committee, Kumar Thapa, said the students would be felicitated at a special function later on. He added that all the expenses were borne by the school education department.

Stir over workers’ suspension

JALPAIGURI, Jan. 27: A section of the Dangapara Division of Madarihat Land Project of Duncans Tea Company workers today confined the assistant manager of the tea plantation, Mr Manprit Singh, after he suspended four workers today.

According to the West Bengal State Chaa Majdur Sangha (affiliated to Hind Majdur Sabha) secretary, Mr Anjan Chakraborty, an allegation of misappropriation of funds by manipulating the paybook of workers' payment was leveled against the plantation official.

He also said that the official had instructed the labourers to pluck at least 30 kg tea leaves per day despite knowing that they normally pluck 24 kg of leaves on an average.

The district PDS secretary, Mr Jainal Pramanik, said that the assistant manager today suspended four workers of the plantation following which, the workers gheraoed him for almost six hours.

The SDO Falakata, Mr Alias Vez, said that he sent police to the plantation after the trade Union leaders informed him of the matter.

The assistant manager Mr Manprit Singh, however, denied all the allegations. “We have not manipulated the paybook and the four were suspended since they had misinformed the media about the management of the plantation,” Mr Singh said. The agitators withdrew after the plantation manager, Mr Sanjay Gurtu, assured them that their grievances would be heard at a meeting with the authorities tonight.

Tea planters seek more sops

SILIGURI: Tea entrepreneurs from Darjeeling have called for higher rate of assistance under the Special Purpose Tea Fund (SPTF).

“Due to cold conditions, the time taken by a young tea bush in Darjeeling to produce the yield is longer than the national average. Moreover, soil conditions here also prolong the gestation period,” said Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) chairman S Bansal.

“Naturally, it requires higher rate of replantation and rejuvenation to maintain stable production level for a longer term. A higher rate of assistance under SPTF can ensure that.”

DTA has already made an appeal in this regard to Union minister of state for commerce and power Jairam Ramesh. He told ET that the usual old annual tea bush replantation rate of near 0.5% only has gone up to near 6% in last two years after SPTF introduction. “There are applications for replantation in 1,300 hectare (ha) land of Darjeeling hills and over 9,000 ha needs to be replanted soon. It will take over seven years. But we need it to do that much earlier,” he added.

Under the Rs 4,700-crore SPTF, eligible planters can have loan and subsidy for replantation at 50% and 25%, respectively.

Though the subsidy scheme for replantation had been there for long, it could hardly keep the yielding bushes adequately young.

From - Economic Times

Darjeeling tea area to be enhanced

Kolkata: The Darjeeling tea industry plans to bring about 10,000 additional hectares under tea cultivation over the next few years, Sanjay Bansal, Chairman of the Darjeeling Tea Association, the industry apex body said.

He told The Hindu that this was necessary to compensate for the loss of crop that would result from the replantation and rejuvenation programme now under implementation under the Special Purpose Tea Fund (SPTF).

At present, about 40 per cent of the licensed land amounting to about 17,500 hectares is used for growing the famous brew. The present area is spread over 87 tea estates.

Darjeeling tea accounts for eight per cent of the total value of production and is certainly one of India’s best known commodity exports.

The proposed upgradation of the existing research facility at Kurseong by the Tea Board aims to increase production and productivity.

GJM to start collecting tea tax

SILIGURI: Vowing to continue its peaceful movement till Gorkhaland was realized, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) said on Sunday that it would begin collecting "tea tax" in Darjeeling from March 7 and demanded an auction centre in the Hills itself instead of the plains.

From March 7, Darjeeling tea packets would have Made in Gorkhaland' tags instead of West Bengal, said GJM general secretary Roshan Giri. The tax paid by planters to the state government so far would now be diverted to the GJM fund against proper receipts. The money would be used for the development of Hills, he added.

The GJM leader also demanded that a tea auction centre be set up in the Hills itself. Asserting that there would be no let up in the movement demanding permission to hold rallies in the Dooars "to unite the Gorkhas and Adivasis in the foothills", Giri said CPM was creating trouble in the area with the help of police.

"The Marxists, with the help of police, are throttling democracy by not allowing GJM to carry out its political activities in the Dooars," he said.

Green energy plan for tea industry

Kolkata: Renewable energy is all set to be used in the tea industry to reduce manufacturing costs and maintain ecological balance in the Darjeeling Hills, Dooars and Assam. The Tea Board of India and West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation (WBGEDC) have jointly decided to prepare a package, to be submitted to the Centre.

WBGEDC managing director S P Gonchoudhuri said they held a meeting with tea board officials and several tea associations to discuss adoption of green energy in tea gardens. “We and the tea board will prepare a plan, which will be submitted to the Centre. The package will seek to reduce existing levels of energy consumption to maintain the eco-system of the Hills,” he said.

Indian Tea Association secretary-general Monojit Dasgupta said they were very interested in using renewable energy sources in the tea industry. “The use of solar energy in the industry was planned earlier, too, but the usage cost was high. Now, there are subsidy schemes available for these energy sources,” he said.

Gonchoudhuri said the eco-system of the Dooars, Assam and Darjeeling is being affected due to deforestation and pollution caused by tea factories. “Besides, the cost of manufacturing tea should also be reduced. Solar, bio-fuel and micro-hydel energy could be effectively used,” he said.

Officials said trucks bring in firewood to the factories that produce tea, thereby increasing vehicular pollution and deforestation. If renewable energies are adopted, a great amount of diesel could be saved, apart from reducing deforestation and vehicular pollution, they added.

Auctioneer Carritt in trouble, defaults on payment obligations

Kolkata: Auctioneer Carritt Moran and Co. Pvt. Ltd has failed to pay tea producers who sold through it in the first week of January, in the first such instance in at least three decades.

Carritt—the second largest tea auctioneer in the world—was yet to fulfil payment obligations for Calcutta sale 1 as of Thursday.

“The shortfall was around Rs1 crore. That’s about 22% of Carritt’s total dues (for sale 1),” said an official of the Calcutta Tea Traders Association, or CTTA, which organizes the auctions. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

Producers have been allowed to withdraw their tea from its catalogue, said Roshni Sen, deputy chairman of Tea Board of India, the industry regulator.

“The decision was taken on request from sellers,” she said.

Lots from Carritt’s catalogue are being assigned to other brokers ahead of the next auction—Calcutta sale 4—on 27 January.

On Thursday evening, the Tea Board also ordered opening of an escrow account and asked people who have bought tea from Carritt to pay into it. This is aimed at making sure Carritt doesn’t divert money paid by buyers to service its own liabilities, Sen said.

Some people, however, might have already paid their dues to Carritt directly, and the money might have been diverted.

“So on Tuesday (27 January), when payments are to be made for (Calcutta) sale 2, Carritt might default again,” said the CTTA official.

The auctioneer, however, is expected to fulfil its payment obligations for the Siliguri and Guwahati auctions, he added.

Carritt, a 131-year-old auctioneer, has been lending to small and medium tea growers, mostly in south India, for many years.

The auctioneer had borrowed from private financiers to lend to tea producers. But many of these loans have not been repaid, and according to Carritt’s chairman P.K. Sen, the company was to receive around Rs36 crore from tea producers.

Carritt’s own liabilities are believed to be in excess of Rs50 crore, and even after setting off “all assets on its books, there’s a Rs30 crore gap,” said a tea industry official close to the Carritt management, on condition of anonymity.

Carritt’s Sen was not available to comment. Calls made to his cellphone were not answered.

Lending to tea producers was the only way to expand business during lean years, said the industry official.

“A broker typically lends against yet-to-be ready crop, and makes sure the crop is sold through it,” he explained. “Almost all brokers had got into that business, but Carritt is suffering because of bad cash management.”

Tea Board’s Sen said: “There were big management deficiencies in Carritt. We are trying our best to salvage the company, but it might have to be closed down.”

Carritt, which sells tea worth around Rs1,000 crore a year and earns 1% of that by way of commission, would never be able to pay off its liabilities with income from auctions, she added.

The Economic Times newspaper first reported in its Kolkata edition on Friday that Carritt was facing a financial crisis.

Even before Carritt collapsed, the Tea Board had asked management consultant Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Pvt. Ltd to examine if there were systemic risks and suggest measures to improve the tea auction system.

Deloitte is expected to submit its report in eight weeks, according to Roshni Sen.
“It is unfortunate that a company of such history and class (as Carritt) has come to this state. But I continue to have full faith in the auction system, and the measures adopted by the tea board will strengthen the system and make it more secure,” said Aditya Khaitan, managing director of McLeod Russel India Ltd, the world’s biggest tea company.

From: Live Mint

Tea exports grow by a record 15 m kg in November

While the global meltdown casts its shadow over several sectors, Indian tea industry remains unaffected. Tea exports have recorded a

growth of 15 million kg till the end of November in 2008. Though the production has come down in the winter season, the industry is expecting a higher export than last year.

The tea exports stood at 175 million kg and that compared with 160 million kg in the 11-month period of the previous year. For the year 2008-09, exports are higher by 8 million kg at 124 million kg for the eight month period from April to November. The Union minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh recently said that the tea export will touch 200 million kg in FY09.

The traditional markets like Russia are active in the market. With Kenyan tea production still showing a shortfall, Pakistan is buying from India. After the 26/11 terror attack, there was a lull in exports to Pakistan. But the exports have picked up in the last few weeks, said Krishnakumar J Shah. “The buyers pay 50% of the amount after clinching the order and rest after delivery,” he said.

Among other buyers, Iran and Iraq are going strong. The export to Egypt is expected to go up once the India tea promotion centre starts functioning by March. Iraq was the largest buyer of Indian tea in 2006. Meanwhile, country’s tea production is up by nearly 28 million kg till the end of November in 2008.

Little chance of brew with ‘G’ mark

Darjeeling, Jan. 18: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s demand that every packet of Darjeeling Tea should have “Gorkhaland” printed on it is likely to have little effect as 60 per cent of the brew is exported.

“The export product is sent as loose tea in chests. What the packaging people do after it reaches them is beyond our control,” said a producer.

Two of the major companies that package Darjeeling Tea for domestic markets are Hindustan Lever and Tata Tea, a source said. “It is unlikely that they will have the word Gorkhaland printed on the packets as their domestic business will not be affected by what is sold in the Darjeeling area,” he said.

Most hill gardens do not have packaging units. “Those that do have, outsource the work to people in Calcutta. The packets that are sold in Darjeeling amount to hardly anything,” said a tea trader.

Those who are likely to be directly affected are a handful of local traders who buy loose tea from the gardens and pack them in aluminium foils with the name of the estate and the shop. “The amount of tea that is sold from these outlets is insignificant for the gardens but is a lot to that particular local trader,” said another trader.

Morcha general secretary Roshan Giri said: “At the end of it, we want all packets to bear the word Gorkhaland.”

The hill party’s demand that it would collect all revenues paid by gardens to the Centre and the state seems to be a non-starter too. “The only tax that is paid by the gardens is the central excise duty on tea at the rate of 12 paise for every kilogram. If the Morcha prevents the paying of this tax, the consignments will not be allowed to go for auctions,” said a planter. “Ultimately, the gardens will suffer for non-payment of tax, whether it is charged by the state or Centre.”

Basudeb Banerjee, the chairman of Tea Board, refused comment: “These are political demands and I cannot say anything.”

India Nov 2008 tea exports rise over 3 pct

MUMBAI, Jan 16 (Reuters) - India's tea exports rose 3.17 percent in November as tea consumption during the winter months witnessed a pick-up, a senior Tea Board official said on Friday.

Exports during November were 19,051 million kg, compared with 18,466 million kg a year ago, G.Boriah, director of tea development, told Reuters.

Total exports during the January-November period stood at 175,519 million kg, compared with 160,372 million kg a year ago, he said.

Park for branded brew buyers - Minister wants land to be identified by February 10

Darjeeling, Jan. 16: Union minister of state for commerce and power Jairam Ramesh today announced a Darjeeling GI Tea Park in the hills with an initial investment of Rs 10 crore.

“I want the land for the park to be identified by February 10 and the first phase of work completed within 12 months. The activities in the centre would be cleaning, grading, sorting and packaging,” said Ramesh.

“If such a centre can be set up in Germany, it can definitely be done within the Darjeeling Tea growing area. I always believe that the local people should be involved in any value addition activity that will contribute to the local economy,” said Ramesh.

A planter explained that a tea park was a centre that catered for the needs of buyers. “Once we export our products to different countries, it is not that they start selling them in the condition that they receive the goods. They are sorted and graded according to needs and checked to see if the certification process has been completed. Once set up, the tea park will perform all these functions. It will help provide custom-made product.”

The minister said the Kurseong-based Darjeeling Tea Research Centre had been allotted Rs 5.5 crore in the 11th Plan. “This is a significant amount for the centre and I hope it will be beneficial for the industry.”

Basudeb Banerjee, chairman of the Tea Board of India, admitted that the research centre had not been functioning properly. “The centre had been without scientists for some time. But now we have now managed to get five scientists for the centre and core issues for the industry like soil fertility and erosion would be looked into,” said Banerjee.

Following a casual suggestion from Sanjay Bansal, the chairman of Darjeeling Tea Association, on the need to institute an award for planters, Ramesh immediately said: “It’s done. I expect the details to be worked out before February 10. If it is ready, I will come to Darjeeling before March 10 to give it away.” The model code of conduct for the general election is likely to be operational from March 10.

The minister stressed that re-plantations should take place on a faster pace. “Earlier the rate of plantation was 0.5 percent but of late it has increased to 6 per cent. Even at this rate, it would take around 8-10 years for total re-plantation. But the planters must complete the task within four to five years,” said Ramesh. Of the estimated 10,000 hectares, about 1,300 hectares have been replanted by the Darjeeling industry, he added.

Ramesh said the registration of Darjeeling Tea as a Geographic Indicator product in the European Union would be completed by October.

Workers chase out managers

Alipurduar, Jan. 13: A section of workers of Mujnai Tea Garden who has been going without wages for a month today forced the management to leave the estate on foot.

The management will, however, decide on the fate of the garden tomorrow. The estate in Madarihat, which has 999 workers, had reopened on November 1 after remaining closed for 11 months.

At 7.30am, the employees went to the senior adviser of the garden, N.N. Chakroborty, and demanded the wages for December.

“I had told them that I would receive the money from the company on Friday and distribute it the next day. But they were not ready to listen to me and started shouting against the management. They asked me to leave the garden immediately if I am unable to pay the wages,” Chakroborty said. “The workers also compelled me to walk to Rangalibazna, 6km away, and did not even allow me to get a car from there. I was forced to board a bus.”

The 70-year-old adviser was accompanied by assistant manager Koushik Roy. Both of them reached the Indian Tea Planters’ Association at Birpara. “No management staff is in the garden now. We will sit tomorrow and decide on our next course of action,” Chakroborty said.

On December 12, the workers had gheraoed Chakroborty throughout the day for wages. They, however, withdrew the agitation following an assurance from the block development officer (BDO) of Madarihat. The management had paid the wages two days later.

Today, as the news of the garden unrest reached Jitendra Tamang, the joint BDO of Madarihat, he reached the spot along with police. But by then, Chakroborty and Roy were far from the garden.

According to sources in the garden, a section of the workers has been instigated by the greenleaves buyers to throw out the management so that they can resume business in a closed estate. Another reason why these buyers were annoyed was that the mechanical employees had started renovating the factory, which means that it would have started producing tea in April.

Sukha Oraon, the garden unit secretary of the Citu-run Cha Bagan Mazdoor Union, defended the workers’ action. “The employees got agitated when Chakroborty said he could not pay today. Last month, the adviser had done the same. If the management delays the payment every month, how long will the workers tolerate,” he said.

The union leader said according to an agreement signed in Calcutta on October 28, the management was supposed to pay the wages by 7th or 8th of every month. But the promise was not kept in December.

SWOT window for garden investors

Siliguri, Jan. 13: The Jalpaiguri district administration has decided to conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of each of the 12 closed tea estates in the Dooars and approach prospective financiers with relevant data.

“So far there have been sporadic developments with some companies expressing interest in procuring some of these closed tea estates,” said Vandana Yadav, the district magistrate of Jalpaiguri. “In case of Kanthalguri, there was a noticeable progress but the new company finally backed off, when it came to know the liabilities, the present status of the plantations and other details.”

Yadav said work was expected to start in a month. “The Tea Board of India is funding the study and the money will probably come in February after which we will commence work.”

So long, the information on closed estates were provided to buyers by the administration or the Tea Board.

“In such cases, we noticed that new entrepreneurs want more details and have decided to go for SWOT analysis after which both positive and negatives sides of a closed tea estate can be furnished. The entrepreneur, instead of being half-informed, can take a complete stock of affairs and decide on the proposal, weighing the pros and cons,” an official in the district administration said.

SWOT analysis is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats involved in a project or in a business venture. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favourable and unfavourable to achieving that objective.

“Positive aspects like old clients interested in taking their supply from the estate, development of infrastructure through government schemes, increase in tea prices and negatives like condition of the plantations and machinery are likely to find place in the analysis,” an official said.

Tea industry sources said since SWOT analysis assimilates most of the internal and external information of a business unit, it becomes easier for the management to work strategically on the strengths and weaknesses. “There are hardly any grey areas left after such analysis,” a planter said. “It can definitely help prospective investors of closed tea estates to assess situation and also in taking future decisions in case they acquire the gardens.”

Yadav said the professional agency that would conduct the survey is likely to be appointed shortly. “The reports will be sent to the state and Centre and other appropriate authorities,” the district magistrate added.

No-show at tea festival sparks off row, minister upset

JALPAIGURI, Jan. 4: The state backward class development minister Mr Jogesh Barman criticised the RSP and the Congress led Alipurduar municipality today, for staying away from the recently held Tea festival in the town.

“The festival authority duly sent the official invitations to both the civic body and the RSP. They are indulging in arrant falsehood while denying having received a formal invitation,” he said.

“There might have been some confusion in the Congress circles regarding the invitation. As far as the formalities are concerned, we have done everything, ” he said. He hoped that there would be no such confusion regarding the upcoming Dooars Tea Festival scheduled to start on 6 January in Alipurdooar.

“I am groping for reasons thinking why the important Left Front constituent has boycotted the festival. The minister, Mr Manohar Tirkey and the Alipurduar MP Mr Joachim Buxla were scheduled to attend the inaugural ceremony. Yet they have not attended. This should not have happened as the festival happens to be a congregation for exchanging idea regarding the predicament of the tea industry in the region,” the minister said.

Ridiculing the minister's allegation Mr Dipto Chatterjee the chairman of Alipurduar civic body said that the leader was playing a dubious political game with the municipality. “The organisers flouted the rule as they organised the fair without having taken prior permission from the civic authority. We allowed the fair keeping in view the interest of the flagging tea industry. Now, with the fair being over, we may think in terms of taking legal action,” Mr Chatterjee said.

The district secretary of RSP Mr Sunil Banik said that his party had been ignored in organising the programme in contravention of the Left Front norms. “The one- upmanship game should stop as the interest of thousands of tea workers is involved in the matter,” the RSP leader said.

From The Statesman

LF leaders blame minister for tea plantation ‘politicking’

JALPAIGURI, Jan. 2: The Jalpaiguri district Left Front leaders today held the Union minister of state for commerce and industry Mr Jairam Ramesh responsible for politicking over the closed tea plantations of north Bengal.

The leaders alleged that the minister's frequent visits to north Bengal and verbal assurance to reopen 13 locked tea plantations in the Dooars, is politically laced.
“Despite the assurances to reopen the locked tea plantations, the minister has failed to keep his word. Though some plantations opened for some time, they closed down again,” the RSP district secretary Mr Sunil Banik said.

The leader also added that his party did not support Mr Ramesh's theory of worker retrenchment.

“Mr Ramesh has suggested voluntary retirement for the tea workers to help the plantation owners but according to an understanding between the tea industry and the workers’ unions during Mr Jyoti Basu's tenure as chief minister, the industry captains had agreed to appoint 10,000 additional workers in the tea plantations, which remains to be fulfilled. Mr Ramesh's frequent visits to Jalpaiguri are politically motivated,” Mr Banik, said.

The CPI district secretary Mr Pabitra Bhattacharya alleged that the Centre had no interest in reopening the plantations and Mr Ramesh's visits were simply an eyewash.
The Forward Bloc district secretary Mr Gobinda Roy said the Centre had no specific plans to reopen the closed plantations. “The minister is only working for the plantation owners’ interest to gain support for his party,” Mr Roy alleged.

Waiver for Jalpaiguri tea center

Alipurduar, Jan. 2: If a garden management sells tea through Jalpaiguri Tea Auction Centre, then it will not have to pay any sales tax for inter-state transportation, finance minister Asim Dasgupta said today.

“The tea market is in good shape and this is the time to open the few estates that are closed in the Dooars,” the minister said. He was at the Alipurduar Parade Ground this afternoon to inaugurate the third Tea Garden and Forest Village Festival organised by backward classes welfare department. The minister said the government was ready to give Rs 25 lakh for the programme held annually, but everybody associated with the tea industry and the forest sector had to be involved.

“I have talked to the forest officials and we have decided to remove the dolomite dust from Hatipota under Buxa Tiger Reserve and use it for agriculture.”

The minister promised to make pucca the four bridges over the Buri Torsha and two streams between Falakata and Palashbari. “The central government had said it would do the job, but failed. We will do it at the earliest. The mahouts and patawalas working in forest department will get two sets of uniforms in a year.”