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Thursday, Oct 07, 2004

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Nilgiris small tea growers advised to collect subsidy

P.S. Sundar

Coonoor , Oct. 6

THE Nilgiris Small Tea Growers' Association has advised its members to collect the price subsidy from the factories to which they supplied the green leaf.

"We have information from the Tea Board that the subsidy is being sent to the factories at the rate of Rs 8 a kg for the made tea, which should work out to Rs 2 a kg for green leaf. This pertains to four months from February 2004. If the growers have any problem in collecting the same, they can contact us or the board," Mr M. Bhojarajan, President of the association and member of the board, told Business Line.

The subsidy was announced by the former Finance Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, in Parliament prior to the elections.

Since the election code came into operation soon thereafter, the actual disbursement could not take place.

But the subsidy became an election issue in the Nilgiris where there is a preponderance of small farmers.

While the ruling front claimed credit for declaring the subsidy, the opposition criticised it for making empty announcements without providing funds for the same.

In the Nilgiris, the issue is regarded as a major reason behind the BJP losing the elections. Ever since, it has been accusing the Congress-led ruling front of being incapable of disbursing the subsidy that had been announced during the NDA regime.

The Union Minister of State for Commerce, Mr E.V.K.S. Elangovan, used the occasion of his visit to Coonoor for the UPASI Annual Conference on September 7 to assure that the subsidy would be disbursed in a week. But only now has some news about the disbursement been given to the growers.

Stating that prices are showing signs of revival, Mr Bhojarajan said that this could be attributed to the improvement in quality leading to upcountry buyers choosing Nilgiris teas. He has advised members of the association not to sacrifice quality on any count, which could disturb the rising trend in prices.

The Tea Board has also decided to send a team of 15 small growers from the Nilgiris to the fields of West Bengal and another team of 15 factory owners in the small-scale sector to Assam to help them study the latest happenings on the quality upgradation front.

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