Budget blues for tea industry

Stakeholders are crying "neglect" with the general budget failing to dole out sops for the tea industry. Amitava Banerjee reports.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2012 20:51 IST
Amitava Banerjee
Amitava Banerjee
Hindustan Times

Stakeholders are crying "neglect" with the general budget failing to dole out sops for the tea industry.

"The government and the Tea Board has utterly neglected the industry which is the biggest foreign exchange earner and the most labour intensive industry of the country. The government does not have any vision for this Industry. The wages of the workers are the lowest and workers rights are being infringed upon. Like every other year, this year too the government has displayed apathy towards this industry" alleged Ajit Sarkar, CITU Vice President, West Bengal.

The total turn over of the Indian tea industry is to the tune of Rs. 10,000 Crores approximately with its growth projected at 250% since independence. Total foreign exchange earned annually is to the tune of Rs. 1847 Crores. This labour intensive industry employs around 1.1million workers and generates income for 10 million people approximately. The workforce comprises of 50% women.

"The tea industry has always been ignored. The biggest paradox is that tea is under the Commerce Ministry and not under the Ministry of agriculture. Owing to this we are loosing out. Along with no special incentives announced for the tea industry, the matter of grave concern is the 2% rise in service tax. This will definitely have an negative impact on the cost of production" claimed Sandeep Mukherjee, Principal Advisor, Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA.)

India is considered a world leader in all aspects of tea production, consumption and export. It accounts for 31% of global production. In the 2011-12 financial year India produced 843067 thousand kg of Tea. "We will be interact with the concerned ministries so that the subsidy in fertilizers for the farmers announced in the budget be extended to the tea industry also. We did not find any direct tea related incentives in this budget" stated Monojit Das Gupta, Secretary General, Indian Tea Association.

The main tea growing regions of India include Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars in the state of West Bengal; Assam and the Niligiri Hills.

"The government should have announced special incentives and subsidies for promotion extension and re-plantation. This would have made the industry more sustainable, specially for the small tea growers. With most of the small tea growers going organic, subsidy in chemical fertilizers does not emerge as an incentive" stated Prem Tamang, Executive Director, Tea Promoters Group, closely working with small tea growers.

First Published: Mar 16, 2012 20:47 IST