The All Assam Small Tea Growers Association on Tuesday urged the Assam Government to control the price of green leaf, establish factories, set up a separate tea ministry, utilise the cess deposit and provide land documents to sustain small tea growers.
A report published in the The Telegraph stated that the demands come in the wake of sustained pressure from tea workers to increase daily wage from Rs 165 to Rs 350. Tea workers cite increased cost of living for their demand.
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 unorganised 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 utilising 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.”