The North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) has written to the Tea Board India seeking rectification in the Price Sharing Formula (PSF) and Minimum Benchmark Price (MBP).

In a letter to Arunita Phukan Yadav, Executive Director of Tea Board India, North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) adviser Bidyananda Barkakoty said the association also cannot accept the circular on Minimum Acceptable Quality (MAQ) of green leaf.

The NETA in the letter said they have written to the Tea Board several times in the past to carry out a study through a reputed third party and accordingly rectify the PSF, MBP and Minimum Acceptable Quality (MAQ) of green leaf.

Unless the PSF, MBP and the circular on MAQ of green leaf are not rectified, “the misunderstanding between tea growers and tea manufacturers will crop up from time to time,” Barkakoty stated.

Barkakoty said according to the Tea Board, there is PSF (which fixes the price of green leaf on annual basis and based on price realisation of individual factory as per Tea Board Form-E monthly return) and there is MBP (which fixes the price of green leaf on monthly basis district-wise and that too based on previous months sale of GTAC).

“Green leaf price cannot be fixed if we have both PSF and MBP as per prevailing formula,” the NETA adviser asserted.

“In practical field, green leaf price is fixed on demand & supply. There is huge competition for green leaf and therefore nowadays it is not possible to suppress the green leaf price.”

“The price of green leaf is bound to go up if the price of made tea increases. Above all, in case there is a written agreement between a grower and manufacturer then Tea Board or the district administration should not intervene,” the letter said.

However, if Tea Board wants to fix minimum price of green leaf then it should be linked to minimum acceptable quality of green leaf as well as notifying a minimum wage for the STG sector which the state government can do, the letter said.

“Also, there is one more aspect – if minimum price of raw material (green leaf) is fixed then a minimum floor price (MFP) of finished product (made tea) may also be fixed. Also, we should not confuse MFP with MSP – both are different; MSP is applicable only if government procures,” it said.

The tea association said the Price Sharing Formula (PSF) can have little modification:

According to the association, the PSF should be calculated on annual basis.

The association suggested that the sharing should be in the proportion of 60:40 (Grower: Manufacturer). The ratio is currently 65:35 (Grower: Manufacturer).

It said they are “okay” with the current recovery, which is 21.65%,

Regarding the Minimum Benchmark Price (MBP), the association said “MBP is neither helping the growers nor the manufacturers; rather it is creating confusion”.

“Practically no one is following MBP; presently green leaf price is fixed on demand & supply. Though we feel that MBP ensures growers to get minimum price but at the same time if Price Sharing Formula is implemented effectively on annual basis then MBP is irrelevant,” the NETA said.

Regarding the Minimum Acceptable Quality (MAQ) of green leaf, the association said: “The circular from Tea Board (No. Jor/TMC/Monitoring/2021/901 dated 06/08/13) is not acceptable to us because there is no concept of 3 leaf & a bud in Assam Tea.”

The association said in Assam, Fine means 1+Bud, 2+Bud, Single Banjhi while doing “Ballometric Count”.

Ballometric Count is a time-tested method to count fine leaf percentage of green leaf, it said.

The NETA in the letter said “there is a huge shortage of workers in all sizes of plantations. Ultimately we will have to introduce field mechanisation”.

“Therefore, in our opinion, the Minimum Acceptable Fine Leaf Count (as per Ballometric Count) should be 40% to start with and move upwards to 50%.”

The director, Tea Research Association (TRA) has already recommended 50% as acceptable fine leaf count in its letter to the Tea Board (No. DIR/OI 0154/038 dated 6th March 2017), it said.

“Taking 40% as MAQ, at a later stage we can go for ‘Graded Incentive’ of Payment of Price for Green Leaf,” it added.

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