The chairperson of the Assam Tea Planters Association (ATPA), Dr Nazrana Ahmed on Wednesday urged the APDCL and AGCL to waive the minimum demand charge and fixed charge till adequate supply is established.

The ATPA chairman made the appeal to Assam Gas Company Limited (AGCL) and Assam Power Distribution Company Limited (APDCL) by painting a grim picture of the tea industry during the Covid times.

Addressing the 83rd annual general meeting of ATPA virtually, Dr Ahmed said the bills be charged on actual meter reading because profiteering without actual supply is a legal violation by them “exploiting their monopolistic position”.

She further requested that Green Climate Fund under NABARD and Zero Budget Natural Farming be extended to tea estates for rejuvenation and mitigating the climate crisis.

She said TRA research has shown that within a few decades, tea growing areas would shrink due to climate impact, disrupting millions of livelihoods mainly of women forcing economic migration with its attendant sociological implications.

This was for the first time that the ATPA annual general meeting was held virtually due to the Covid19 pandemic safety guidelines.

Dr Ahmed said the tea industry has stumbled into the horse latitudes, without re-framing of coordinates and that the industry with 25% of crop loss this year would be in doldrums.

“Compounded Annual Growth Revenue prices since 2012 have been negative when in last few months average prices had just reached the cost of production, whereby entrenched stakeholders raised the issue of imports in this era of Atma Nirbhar Bharat when the PM has directed us to be Vocal for Local,” she said.

Dr Ahmed further raised the concern of illegal tea imports through Nepal.

Referring to cost of production and pricing of tea, Dr Ahmed said prices of all inputs from petroleum products to fertilizers have risen by 25% during the pandemic.

Tea although an agriculture product, its average prices are not being calculated by the calendar year but in the first quarter its sales had actually decreased by Rs.70-80, she said.

“The MS Swaminathan formula for stable remunerative prices must be addressed,” she said.

Referring to the support given by the government, she said the Assam Tea Planters Association was grateful to the government for its assistance through various schemes, and waiver of cess on green leaf.

Gautam Barooah, director, Muktabari Tea Estates (P) Ltd., Jorhat and Deboshyam Barua, director, Dalowjan Tea Estate, Golaghat took over the charge of chairman and vice-chairman of the Association respectively for 2020-2022.

Smita Bhattacharyya

Smita Bhattacharyya is Northeast Now Correspondent in Jorhat. She can be reached at: triptyaddy@gmail.com