Agri Business

Tea industry urged to lure youngsters with better amenities

Our Bureau Coimbatore | Updated on February 27, 2011


While the problem of labour in agriculture is not new, the issue in this belt is unlike other agri-oriented zones. “It is not availability of labour, but presence of labour itself,” asserted the Coimbatore District Collector Dr P Umanath.

Dr Umanath was highlighting the issue during the inaugural session of the two-day National Convention on South India Teas 2011 at The Residency here.

Going through the topics scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, the Collector said: “ I am surprised that when the estates in this region face a chronic problem of labour, the two-day agenda has no mention of this issue.”

Stating that the situation would only worsen in the coming years if ignored, Dr Umanath said: “the tea producing areas in this belt overlapped with the ‘best' industrialised areas in the country, so it is only natural that this sector is hit hard.”

Citing a survey conducted by the district administration, the Coimbatore District Collector said while the population of the district has registered an increase of 12.5 per cent compared to the previous census, the Valparai Taluk population has fallen by 18 per cent during the same period.

Different aspirations

“I can categorically state that it is not availability of labour, rather the presence of labour itself in such remote pockets. The younger (second/ third) generation has different aspirations. They migrate to towns in search of better job prospects. The future of the tea industry therefore would depend on the aspiration of these young folks. It is not that these youngsters are looking for any wage increase; the issue can be tackled by providing better amenities,” he said.

Urging the tea industry sources to make such youngsters return to estates, he pointed out that in Assam and Darjeeling, the estate labourers were mostly tribals and indigenous workforce. “We need to provide better amenities here,” he said, adding “the Government is trying to sort this problem of labour. The State has, for instance allocated two ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes) to Valaparai Taluk to enable the estate workers educate their wards in the respective areas. This is among the many initiatives,” he said.

On homogenisation of South Indian teas, he said “though South Indian teas are discussed often, not much has been done on ‘collective branding' of these teas.”

He urged the industry to lay more emphasis on branding of the teas from the South.

Responding to the Guest of Honour's observation, the Tea Board Executive Director, Mr R Ambalavanan, said there is a need to find a sustainable solution to the problems faced by the tea industry. Industry stakeholders such as buyers and auctioneers should come forward and find an amicable solution to such issues, he said.

He further observed that cultivation and production costs were on the rise, and estates had to make do with acute shortage of farm hands and non-availability of firewood. “And because of climate change, production is not uniform. Small growers are moving out as they are unable to tackle such adversaries,” Mr Ambalavanan said.

He admitted that adulteration and colouring adversely affected the prospects of tea in the domestic market.

On branding, Mr Ambalavanan said the industry stakeholders would have to unite and make concerted efforts to oust the bad elements hampering the growth of the industry.

Published on February 26, 2011

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