Agri Business

Trouble brewing between Nilgiris’ bought leaf factories, growers

Our Correspondent Coonoor | Updated on October 08, 2020

Small rowers allege factories are refusing to buy green leaf due to Tea Board quality norms

With the nearly 100 small-scale bought leaf factories refusing to buy a substantial portion of the green leaf supplied by small growers, citing the Tea Board’s norms, the livelihood of 75,000 such small growers in the Nilgiris is in danger.

“These factories have suddenly stopped procuring major portion of our green leaf citing the recent notices issued by Tea Board on the quality norms of the green leaf used as raw material,” Ramesh Chander, President of the Nilgiris Small Tea Growers’ Association told BusinessLine.

“Because of this, daily, our harvested produce worth ₹ 3.30 crore remains unabsorbed, causing heavy fiscal strain for the growers”, he said.

“Factories have informed the growers that the Tea Board would penalise them if they procure coarse green leaf accounting for more than 5 per cent of the total volume — in other words, nearly 95 per cent of the green leaf should be fine or soft banji calibre”, he disclosed.

“We have been supplying quality leaves acceptable to the factories all along and the teas manufactured by the factories with these leaves, as per FSSAI standards, have fetched record prices at the auctions recently. So, we wonder why impractical quality norms are being insisted on now,” Ramesh Chander observed.

“Being an agro-produce, the quality of green leaf changes depending on terrain, weather and soil conditions and so, insisting on unrealistic standards will create a standstill in the industry,” he cautioned.

“We were happy that the Tea Board has now announced an all-time high district average price of ₹ 30.03 a kg for our green leaf, but with factories refusing to purchase our green leaf, growers are unable to benefit from this price,” he lamented.

“We, have, therefore, requested Tea Board to make factories buy small growers’ green leaf at this price with immediate effect,” he added.

‘Normas followed’

Factories, however, contend that they are buying green leaf. “As most factories have already received show-cause notices from Tea Board, we have informed the growers that we will strictly adhere to the quality norms prescribed the Tea Board while procuring their green leaf,” P Sajeev, President, the Nilgiri Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers’ Association, said.

“We have not stopped buying, but rather are buying only those portions of green leaf which conform to the quality standards prescribed by the Tea Board. In reality, the volume of green leaf we are able to buy as per this standard is so low that we are unable to run our factories”, he explained.

“At this uneconomic situation of operation, most factories will be forced to close down their operations,” he lamented.

Board notices

The Tea Board has issued show-cause notices to 109 bought leaf factories in South India for various reasons, not just for leaf quality.

“Tea Board officials undertook inspection in 119 factories in Southern zone last month. Following this, show cause notices have been issued to 109 factories for deviation s including lack of quality in leaf procurement, poor hygienic standards, non-maintenance of statutory records, default in online payment to the growers, non-adherence to the licensed production limit, non-removal of iron filings, non-filing of monthly returns in tea waste control portal, non-payment of green leaf price as per the price sharing formula to the farmer and, accumulation of more than allowed limit of tea waste,” Tea Board Executive Director M Balaji said.

He said that action would be taken against them after receiving replies to the show-cause notices.

Balaji said that inspections are being conducted to help consumers get quality tea manufactured by the factories.

He said that monthly advisories are issued to the farmers on the standard farming practices and plucking harvesting standards.

Auction postponed

Meanwhile, the leaf tea auctions of Coonoor Tea Trade Association scheduled for Thursday did not take place.

“As there is a technical issue in generating contracts for last week’s auctions due to the implementation of GST Invoice Return Number, we have decided to postpone this week’s auctions by a day,” L Vairavan, CTTA Chairman said.

“Accordingly, the leaf auctions will be held on Friday and dust tea auctions on Saturday”, he said.

Published on October 08, 2020

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