Agri Business

Small scale sector opposes tea imports move

P S SUNDAR Coonoor | Updated on August 14, 2020

The small scale factories, or bought-leaf tea factories, and the small growers in The Nilgiris are worried that some sections of the tea traders are influencing the Union government for helping the import of a higher volume of tea through reduced duty to tame the price rise in the country.

“Prices have gone up in the Indian auctions because of temporary reasons such as lockdown due to Covid-19, floods in many tea growing states and adverse climatic conditions”, L Vairavan, Secretary, The Nilgiri Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers’ Association, told BusinessLine.

“The misuse of imported teas has been a major reason in the past for the indigenous tea manufacturers to suffer price crash. Tea Board has confirmed that of the 60.35 million kg (mkg) of tea imported into India in the last three years, only 23.45 mkg has been re-exported. The balance 36.92 mkg has been sold within the country but without following the Food Safety Standards (Packing and Labelling) Regulations. We have, therefore, urged the Union Commerce Minister to take action on those who have violated the legal provisions,” he disclosed.

“We have informed the Government that if tea is allowed to be imported, that will cause a crash in the market thereby affecting the manufacturers and growers besides upsetting the quality of the teas supplied to the consumers,” he noted.

“For long the price paid to the small growers for their green leaf has been only ₹8-12 a kg, which was hardly enough for their survival. Many small growers have abandoned their gardens and migrated to the plains to do menial manual work for survival,” Ramesh Bhojarajan, President, Nilgiris Small Tea Growers’ Association, said.

“Only now, we are getting ₹21 a kg, thanks to improvement in price for black tea in the auctions. Still, given the rising cost of operations and the lockdown restrictions, this is just a sustainable price, not a profitable price,” he said.

“We have, therefore, petitioned to the Commerce Minster not to allow any import which would pull down the prices paid to us. Besides, it would be contrary to the Prime Minister’s call to ‘Make in India’ as also ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ stressing on self-reliance as we, small farmers, would be forced to depend on imported tea price for our survival,” he explained.

Published on August 14, 2020

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