It is now official Assam Tea is bad shape and heavy production , less demand and employment related issues have sent the industry southwards.
Assam Tea, which has been the face of Assam for centuries is going southwards. It now has no trees, produce 80 million kg per more than the demand and as a result price are stagnant resulting no price for the small tea growers.
All these ominous signals came into the limelight in a meeting of Assam Government and Tea majors where Assam Ministers Chandra Mohan Patowary bluntly said what was an open secret.
With 80 million ks surplus production, the industry is getting badly affected and 75000 small tea growers are not getting price as consumers have moved towards spoecialty tea and Assam Tea is not being able to cope up with the new demand.
Concerned at the crisis faced by the tea industry, the State government today formed a committee to promote the beverage at the global level by adding value and branding it. The panel, to be headed by Additional Chief Secretary (Industry) Ravi Capoor, will also pursue GI tag for Assam tea, Industry Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary, who held a review meeting with industry representatives, said.
Incidentally, the mandate of the committee is somewhat similar to that of Tea Board of India. The Industry Minister evaded questions from journalists when this was pointed out. Asked whether the Tea Board has failed to give any fillip to Assam tea, Patowary said: "It is no good to blame others. We will be working ourselves to promote tea as a preferred beverage among the masses," he said.
"We must admit the condition of the tea industry is not good. We have a surplus production of 80 million kg. Due to the mismatch in the supply and demand, there has been no price realization. We are not able to compete in the international market," Patowary said after the review meeting which was attended by representatives from the planters' associations and companies.
He said the committee formed today will work on ways to add value to Assam tea. "At present, packeters are benefiting by using their own brands to sell tea manufactured in Assam. The committee will look for means to develop a brand of Assam tea, along with a special logo. We will also be proposing for GI tag for Assam tea; we have GI registration for orthodox tea at present," Patowary added.
Capoor said while prices of tea have remained stagnant for the last several years, the cost of production has increased by 9 per cent every year. The per capita consumption of tea in the country is just around 780 grams. The committee will also look for ways to increase the demand for Assam tea as well as ensure that price realisation is better.
The State produces around 650 million kg of tea annually, and 80 per cent of it is consumed in the country. Some 48 per cent of the production comes from small tea growers.
The industry minister also pointed out that while the workers in Assam produce around 2.5 kg of tea per worker per season, the figure is 6 kg in South India.
"We also have to look into this aspect. We are taking up the matter with the Skill Development Mission, if we can take some skill development initiative for the