Vahdam Teas has mooted a $100,000 interest-free loan programme to help partner tea estates and the community tide over the crisis the sector is facing at present.

Bala Sarda, founder and Chief Executive of India’s homegrown tea and super foods brand Vahdam, told BusinessLine that the initiative would help provide a much needed breather to tea producers, who are being crippled due to the lockdown imposed to control the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

“After understanding the plight of the small tea producers, particularly those in the North, where the entire first flush season has virtually been lost and manufacturing activities brought to a halt because of the lockdown, we came up with this initiative to help producers pay weekly wages to the workers and meet other estate expenses.

“The response has been good. Estates such as Rohini, Oaks and Selim Hill in Darjeeling and Billimalai in the Nilgiris have availed themselves of financial assistance, and applications from many other tea estates are under process,” he said.

Hrishikesh Saria of Rohini Tea Garden said that interest-free finance accommodation has helped the estate settle the wage dues for April. “The lockdown crippled our cash flow cycle, plucking and manufacturing operations,” he said.

Covid-19 relief to estate workers

Notwithstanding the assistance to tea producers by way of interest-free loan, Vahdam has decided to support estate workers as well. For this, the company has joined hands with NGO Child Rights and You (CRY)to distribute dry ration and hygiene kits to workers at tea estates.

Relief work was carried at Gopaldhara, Rohini and Okayti tea estates in Darjeeling and Billimalai tea estate in the Nilgiris. The dry ration packs, containing three weeks’ requirement of rice, pulses, potatoes, oil and salt, were distributed to 500 households. Th hygiene kits, comprising soaps and washable masks, were distributed to 600 families, Sarda said in a note.

Apart from this, Vahdam has launched a ₹25-lakh Tea Estate Workers Relief Fund on crowdfunding platform, Ketto “We have contributed ₹7.5 lakh. The contributions would be utilised to provide relief kits to tea estate workers.”