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Special fund launched to save tea gardens

STPF is formally launched with the signing of a loan agreement between the Tea Board of India and representatives of 82 tea gardens of the state, reports Digambar Patowary.

business Updated: Jun 25, 2007 23:51 IST
Digambar Patowary
Digambar Patowary
Hindustan Times

The Special Purpose Tea Fund (STPF) was formally launched on Monday with the signing of a loan agreement between the Tea Board of India and representatives of 82 tea gardens of the state.

Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State for Commerce, Mani Shankar Ayar, Minister for Development of North Eastern Region, Montek Singh Alhuwalia Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, and chief minister Tarun Gogoi was present at the ceremony.

The first agreement was signed between the Assam Tea Corporation Ltd (ACTL) and the Tea Board. The ACTL has 13 gardens and most of these garden have been declared sick. A total of Rs 48 crore of loans was disbursed on the first day.

In his address Ramesh said that the most crucial problem afflicting the Indian tea industry was its ageing of tea bushes, leading to decline in quality and productivity.

The ageing factor of tea bushes resulted in the cost of production of Indian tea becoming the highest among major tea producing countries. Ramesh said that to arrest the trend, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry had approved the STPF scheme for extending financial support to the needy tea estates for undertaking replanting, replacement planting and rejuvenation of old aged tea bushes.

“What we are doing today for our tea industry, we should have done in 10 years ago. We have to go for more diversification of our tea industry. We have to re-establish India as the global tea leader," said Ramesh.

He added that the objective of STPF is to cover 2.12 lakh hectare over a 15 years period. The other objective includes increasing tea production level five times high in next 15 years. The total tea cultivable land in the country in nearly 5 lakhs.

Tea bushes are the basic assets for the tea industry. About 38 percent of the tea bushes are above 50 years and nine percent are in the age group of 40 –50 years. Beyond 50 years, their productivity declines and they become more susceptible to pest and diseases. “The solution is in stepping up the rate of explanation and rejuvenation of Indian tea industry to thrive,” added the minister.

The programme would generate additional employment at the rate of 22 million person days per year, which would facilitate in gainful employment of dependents of the workers residing in the tea plantation.

First Published: Jun 25, 2007 23:24 IST