Assam tea industry seeks medium-size garden category
June 13, 2013
Captains of tea industry in Assam have demanded for a new category---medium size estates for better administrative rationale in disbursement of various subsidy schemes.
With the spectrum of land holding in tea industry too large, the industry has demanded the Tea Board of India that there be a third category of ---medium size estates. At present, there are small tea growers and big tea estates.
Any tea grower having a land holding for tea cultivation up to 10.12 hectares (about 25 acres or 75 bighas) is considered as a STG and beyond 10.12 hectares is considered as a big tea estate. The classification has deprived a lot of gardens from subsidy benefits.
Now, a tea estate having 11 hectares of land holding is also a big tea estate and Kakojan tea estate, which has 1,650 hectares of plantation, are also big tea estates. “This shows the abnormality in present categorisation process,” Bidyananda Barkakoty, chairman of North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), said.
The NETA leaders feel that 10.12 hectares criteria for STG be broadened up to 50.60 hectares (which is equal to 125 acres or 375 bighas) and there be a new category of medium sized estates whose land holding be 50.60 hectares to 300 hectares. Anything above 300 hectares be classified as a big tea estate, demanded the tea industry.
According to the industry, broadening the definition of STG would help many first generation planters to avail government benefits under schemes meant for small growers. There are large numbers of tea estates between 50 hectares and 300 hectares which are financially weak and needs assistance.
Tea Board in London to promote Assam tea
June 11, 2013
It is good news for Assam---the Tea Board, in tandem with the Nehru Centre, the cultural wing of the Indian High Commission in UK, will showcase the array of Assam tea at a special event on June 14 at Mayfair in London.
External affairs ministry officials told the India Tea that the Tea Board will be part of the event---‘The Gateway of India’s North-East’ on June 14. The summit will deal with some of the key issues related to the overall socio-economic development of the northeast, which has not been able to grow in comparison to the other states.
The topic for the panel discussion is Role of India’s North-East in global development. The panelists will be led by BBC journalist Humphrey Hawksley and Indian journalist Amit Roy. The meeting will be chaired by Rita Payne, president, Commonwealth Journalists Association, and an Assamese by birth.
The interactive session will be attended by Simon Hughes, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats.
NETA demands inclusion of tea in textbooks of Assam
June 8, 2013
North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), the apex body of the tea growers of the region has appealed to the Assam government to include the lessons on tea and its benefits in the text books of the school.
During the 16th Biennial General Meeting of the Association, its chairman Bidyananda Barkakoty requested the Tarun Gogoi-led government to focus on tea industry to accelerate the process of development of the state.
“We appeal to the government of Assam to include a chapter in the school textbooks on tea and the health benefits of tea and its role in our economy and society. As tea is the strength of our state, we feel this initiative will enlighten the students,” Bidyananda Barkakoty, said.
NETA leader maintained that tea is not a mere industry, and has been a way of life in Assam for centuries. “In Assam, tea is not just a product or commodity. It is a culture – a culture steeped in history; and a history replete with highlights of development and contribution to economic growth and social progress. So, it meant a lot to all of us,” Barkakoty added.
It may be mentioned that way back on May 8, 1838, three hundred and fifty pounds of Assam tea was dispatched to London and sold at India House, London, on January 10, 1839. Since then, over the last 170 years, it is the only industry where Assam has retained its leadership.
“Assam, to the outside world, is synonymous with tea. So, our youths also should be made aware of it in the proper way,” Barkakoty, said.
Planters demand shifting of Tea Board headquarters to Guwahati
June 7, 2013
As contributes more than half the India’s total tea production, the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) has demanded shifting of the Tea Board headquarters to Guwahati. At present, the Tea Board of India’s head-office is in Kolkata.
Bidyananda Barkakoty, chairperson of NETA said except tea, all the other statutory commodity boards - coffee, rubber, spices and tobacco have their headquarters in states where the products are mainly grown.
“Karnataka is the birthplace of coffee in India and the Coffee Board’s headquarters is in Bengaluru,” Barkakoty, said, adding that as rubber cultivation in India has been traditionally confined to Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the Rubber Board has its headquarters in Kottayam. Likewise, the Spices Board is in Cochin and the Tobacco Board is headquartered in Guntur.
“Though Assam is the birthplace of tea in India and statistics show that the state alone produces more than 50 percent of the country’s total tea, why is the Tea Board’s office s still in Kolkata,” he questioned.
Though a Tea Board office was set up in Dibrugarh in 2008, the board’s northeast zonal office is being shifted from Guwahati to Jorhat. The NETA chief argued that as Guwahati is the gateway to northeast and the Southeast Asian countries, it is essential to have the Tea Board’s headquarters in the city. However, the Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association, refused to comment on the NETA’s demand.
“Shifting of Tea Board head office to Guwahati will be in the greater interest of the people connected with tea cultivation,” Barkakoty, said, adding that there has been an expansion of tea cultivation areas in Assam and other northeastern states, and in the other tea growing states, there has hardly been any growth. “Very soon, northeast will produce more than 65 percent of the country’s tea,” he added.
According to statistics, Assam produces 52.9 percent of India’s tea production, followed by West Bengal (24.8 percent), Tamil Nadu (14.6 percent), Kerala (5.7 percent), Karnataka (0.5 percent) and other states 1.4 percent.
Punctuality mantra on workers’ wrists in Andrew Yule gardens
June 7, 2013
Romila Tanti, Pranati Munda, Sobina Nayak and for the other women workers at Khowang tea estate in upper Assam’s Dibrugarh district, punctuality has always been top-most priority. Since the days of the British planters it has been a mandatory order for all in the garden premises to follow the garden’s huge bell in order to follow time.
Today as Romila, Pranati and Sobina set out for work along with the other workers in the garden, their spirits are doubled as they have commemorative watches tied on their wrists. Gifted by the employer company–Andrew Yule & Company Limited, the special gift to commemorate 150 years of its existence, has made the workers proud.
The company which has nine tea estates in Assam---Rajgarh, Hingrijan, Desam, Tingkhong, Murphulani, Hoolungooree, Basmatia, Khowang and Bhamun has decided to gift wrist watches to all its permanent workers. The watches are specially manufactured by HMT with the 150 years logo inscribed in it. In all 7,712 watches is being distributed in the nine gardens.
Andrew Yule is a Government of India enterprise, and comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Heavy Industries. The company was incorporated in 1863 at Calcutta to become one of the largest and most prominent managing agencies in India and the largest British owned company outside Great Britain. Hoolungooree tea estate near Mariani in Assam was the first tea plantation to be developed followed by other tea plantation to be developed followed by other tea plantations in Assam, Dooars and Darjeeling.
The company had undergone many changes over the years and with the removal of managing agencies and nationalisation of Coal Companies, the federal government took a major stake in the company in 1974, after which the company became a public sector enterprise.
“We are really feeling honoured today for such a gift by the company. We have never dreamt of such a gift from our employers. From now, our commitment towards the garden and company has been doubled,” Romila said.
“Over the last few years, the company has invested extensively in uprooting and replanting activities in the tea plantations and modernisation of its factories. The quality of the tea produced by the company’s gardens is now comparable to the top 20 within the industry. This is just the beginning. We are planning to become the No.1 tea producing company in the country”, Kallol Dutta, the Chairman and Managing Director of the company, said.
To mark the company’s 150 years of existence, inter school elocution contest, sports, inter-division and inter-garden soccer tournaments are being organized. Apart from conducting vocational training in various subjects like tailoring, beautician, computer repairing, mobile repairing, the company has also started motor driving classes for both men and women in the tea gardens and its adjoining areas.
“We have also conducted several awareness camps in the gardens on key subjects like HIV/AIDS and blood donation and will continue to do so”, Dutta said.
Assam small growers hit hard due to power crisis
June 7, 2013
Kongkon K Bora
Acute power shortage in Upper Assam districts has badly hit the business of the small tea growers.
Founder president of the Confederation of Small Tea Growers Association (CISTA) Satyajit Bordoloi predicted a grim future for the small tea growers in Assam if the poor power situation continues in the Upper Assam districts.
“The tea leaf factories would always try to cut down their losses and producing tea using diesel generators during the long hours of load-shedding is not economically viable,” Bordoloi said, adding that in the competitive market, the tea would not be able to sell their tea at a higher price.
Depending on their capacity, each tea leaf factory has to bear additional Rs 1,500 to Rs 4,000 per hour to run their generators. Average cost of production of the tea factories has already gone up from Rs 6 per unit to Rs 12 per unit on an average due to the power situation in the state.
Since the cost of production has now gone up due to power shortage, the tea factories, which were dependent on green leaves from small tea growers, have cut down their production level. It has immediately affected the rate of green tea leaves. If the power situation continues for an extended period, prices of green tea leaves are bound to fall further in the monsoon flash, adding to the woes of the small tea growers.
Price of green tea leaves has already come down to Rs 20 per kg in Sivasagar district. The price was Rs 27 per kg during the same period last year, Bordoloi, said, adding that bumper tea production in almost every tea producing areas like Sri Lanka, Kenya, Dooars, Nilgiris and Assam has contributed to the reduction in tea prices.
Depending on their capacity, each brought tea leaf factory has to bear additional Rs 1500-4000 per hour to buy diesel for their generators. This adds up to a huge amount in the long run. If the power situation continues for an extended period, prices of green tea leaves are bound to fall in the monsoon flash, adding to the woes of the small tea growers.
The small growers faced a tough time in 2011, when prices of tea leaves came down significantly due to the over-production of tea leaves. Many small tea growers had to dump their tea leaves due to drop in prices of green leaves that year.
Assam battles for tea as national drink
June 7, 2013
Assam government is aggressively campaigning for declaring tea as the national drink of India, a label, which will greatly benefit the tea industry not only in Assam but in the entire country.
Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia had declared that tea would be declared as national drink on April 17, 2013, commemorating 212th birth anniversary of Maniram Dewan, the first tea planter of India, and a freedom fighter. Sadly, New Delhi is yet to grant the national tag to tea. But, it is believed that an intense rivalry brewing between the tea and coffee industries over the issue.
As a calculated strategy, the Assam government declared tea as the state drink last year. The state cabinet had given its nod to declare tea as the official drink of Assam. In fact, Assam produces more than half of the tea produced in India.
Speaking to India Tea, Assam industry and commerce minister Pradyut Bordoloi said the Assam government is trying its best to convince New Delhi to grant the national tag to tea, and has also asked the tea industry captains to take up the issue with the Ministry of Commerce.
Bordoloi is confident that the centre will make the declaration very soon. “A parliamentary standing committee on commerce, which was constituted on August 31, 2011, submitted its report on August 9, 2012, and had recommended that tea be granted the status of national drink,” he said, adding that the tag will be a big boost to the tea industry.
“After the declaration of tea as the state drink, there has been some growth, and youths are getting attracted towards the refreshing drink,” the minister said, adding that a study had earlier revealed that youths did not prefer tea. “Scientists are experimenting on bringing about new varieties of tea,” he said.
Bidyananda Barkakoty, chairman of North Eastern Tea Association said that once tea is declared as the national drink, it will also be a big help for marketing and export.
Cha Bagicha, adding taste and aesthetics to tea
June 7, 2013
Scottish explorer Robert Bruce may have discovered tea in the 1820s in Assam, but it took almost two centuries to give shape to the concept of trendy tea boutiques in the tea-country of Upper Assam.
The Upper Assam districts, with its numerous tea gardens are known worldwide for its good quality tea. And the tea produced and packaged in Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar and Tinsukia are shipped across the globe. But, unfortunately, the common people have been missing the true taste of high-quality Assam tea, which are exported to Europe and other developed nations.
The recent opening of ‘Cha Bagicha’, an exclusive tea boutique at Chiring Chapori in Dibrugarh town by young entrepreneur Sumir Bagrodia has now set the trend of setting aesthetic values in procuring and packaging of high-quality tea. Bagrodia has come up with the promise that visitors to Dibrugarh will now get to buy beautifully packaged tea of various tastes.
“Besides displaying and selling tea in attractive gift packets, our aim is to spread awareness about the health benefits of tea and the right methods of brewing,” Bagrodia said. The boutique stocks a wide variety of tea - CTC, Assam Orthodox and Darjeeling, along with packets of green, herbal, organic, white, flavoured, masala, cardamom and ginger tea.
The boutique will soon start serving ready-to-drink tea of all varieties, sell books on tea as well as spices of good quality. Cha Bagicha has also provided space to the Photography Club of Assam to showcase its unique photographs of tea and its heritage. “We also plan to promote tea culture and tourism in Assam,” Bagrodia said.
Eminent Assamese film actor Bishnu Kharghoria who inaugurated the tea boutique expressed hope that apart from providing the customers a unique place for purchase of good quality tea, the promoters of the boutique will also think in providing some knowledge of how tea is being produced in Assam.
“It might sound very odd, but very few us known the actual process of how the green leaves – the two leaves and a bud – are turned into tea which is a necessity in almost all household of Assam,” Kharghoria said. He also suggested that the promoters of Cha Bagicha can come up with a short video on tea manufacturing.
Visitors have already started thronging the tea boutique and the response according to Bagrodia is encouraging. “It has given us an opportunity to pick and choose as there are several varieties of tea on display. I have found the information on medicinal values of tea consumption to be very interesting,” Prabin Hondique, an official of Oil India Limited, said.