Assam Cabinet last night removed 10 paisa cess on green tea, but that is not going to help the huge the industry.
The cosmetic change of withdrawal of the cess and Rs 6 per kg income tax exemption for those who use Amingaon dry port for tea business, is unlikely to help the tea sector as the Assam Government failed to ensure the minimum support price to the small tea resulting the loss to the STG sector.
The big gardens and companies refuse to accept the Board administered price citing their own loss and the state government was also dilly delaying in taking a firm stand leaving about 1,00,000 STG in the lurch.
The report further stated that the association alleged that big tea companies are squeezing the small growers by paying less price for green leaf and buying “on their whims”, forcing the growers to sell at a price that does not cover the cost of production.
The small tea producers are also hampered by the policy of not allowing auction of organic tea at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC). Only small growers produce organic handmade orthodox and green tea but have to sell it in an unorganized manner, which lowers the price.
The Association General Secretary Rohit Borgohain said, “Our cost of production has gone up. It costs around Rs 15 to produce a kilo of green leaf but we are forced to sell between Rs 12 and Rs 14. The factories sometimes cite breakdown and refuse to buy our leaf. We are then forced to throw it away. The minimum benchmark price fixed by the Tea Board is not accepted by the tea companies. Cess at the rate of 10 paise per kg of green leaf is collected from us though the Government has not issued any notification on this issue. More than Rs 200 crore has been deposited but the Government is not utilizing it for our welfare. A separate tea ministry should be set up, green leaf prices controlled by the Board and tea cultivation should be considered agriculture instead of an industry. Organic tea should also be allowed to be auctioned.”