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