P.S. Sundar

Coonoor, Nov. 21

VARIOUS industry and political organisations in the Nilgiris have stepped up their campaign for a floor price for tea. Not a day passes without some one organising stirs in some parts of the Nilgiris demanding a floor price.

While some ask for a floor price of Rs 10 a kg for the green leaf supplied by the small growers to the factories, others want Rs 15. There are also some interests asking for a price of Rs 45 a kg for the manufactured tea.

Representations have piled up with the Centre and the Tamil Nadu Government and the elected representatives are also pressing the respective Governments to act before the Assembly elections scheduled in May.

"We are sad that the growers have been getting only Rs 4 -5 a kg for some time now. This is hardly sufficient for them to meet their essential expenses", Mr T. Rangaiah, President of the Nilgiris Small Tea Growers' Association, told Business Line.

As President of the Young Badaga Association, he has convened a meeting of the various interests in Udhagamandalam to chalk out the further course of action to face the crisis.

"We are getting the representatives of the growers, factory owners, political parties, labour unions as also other interests such as merchants and transport organisers. Our attempt is to get a consensus", he said.

The Commerce Ministry is, however, yet to confirm its action on the representations. Political parties in the UPA are pressing the Government to come out with a floor price at the earliest as the AIADMK Tamil Nadu Government has already disbursed subsidies to the tune of Rs 19 crore to about 50,000 small growers in the Nilgiris. Its target is Rs 28 crore under a protection scheme scheduled to run up to end-December.

The Chief Minister, Ms J. Jayalalithaa, has also pressed the Centre to reimburse to the State the cost of the protection scheme. She also wants the Centre to announce a floor price.

But, representations have been made to the CM to fix a floor price to the members of the Indco factories, which are managed by her Government. This would benefit some 21,000 growers.

In any case, there would be little benefit of the floor price being announced if it is not backed by strict measures for field implementation.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated November 22, 2005)
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