Nearly 80 tea gardens located in the Barak Valley in Assam and producing 50 million kg of tea annually, mostly the CTC variety, want the Assam Government to take up with the Centre the issue of extension of transport subsidy under the NEIIP (North East Industrial Incentive Plan) to gardens located in the valley.
”Industries other than tea have benefited immensely from the transport subsidy granted to them under NEIIP scheme but not tea,” according to N. K. Bagla, Chairman of the Cachar Sub-Committee of the Tea Association of India. “This discrimination must end to help Barak Valley tea, which is already handicapped by the location of gardens in remote areas and low price realisation."
Addressing the annual general meeting of the Cachar chapter of TAI at Silchar recently, he pointed out how transportation was proving to be major stumbling block for movement of inputs as well as made tea to auction centres and the main markets outside the North-East.
Emphasising the need for reintroduction of rejuvenation subsidy for bushes located in the plains, he said the current discrimination in this regard between bushes located in the highlands and plains must be scrapped, especially since rejuvenation infilling and consolidation to renew old bushes entailed lower cost and a much shorter time to be ready for harvesting and, therefore, was a better option.
The scope for export of Barak Valley teas to Bangladesh should be explored for several reasons, Bagla said. First, the demand for tea in Bangladesh was steadily rising; the average price at $4 per kg in Bangladesh was remunerative and finally, low shipment costs due to the proximity of the market which can be accessed by road from Cachar areas.
It would be a major breakthrough if the Bangladesh market opened up to Barak Valley teas, which did not have an export market at present. There were reports that small quantities of South Indian teas were finding their way into that market, he said.
He also suggested formation of a Consultative Committee for Barak Valley tea with representatives from all the stakeholders concerned, namely, the Assam Government, the Tea Board, MPs and MLAs and the tea producers' associations.
"The Committee should be able to address the core as well as new and emerging issues relating to the tea industry in the Barak Valley,” he added.