Noted planter suggests ways to bail out crisis-hit tea industry

 GUWAHATI, March 7 – Increase in the price of tea at farm gate, steps to resolve the demand-supply mismatch, promotion of Assam Tea, alternate economic activities and extension of flagship schemes of the Union Government for the benefit of the employees of the tea sector have been suggested by noted tea planter Bidyananda Barkakoty to bail out the crisis-ridden tea industry of the State.Barkakoty, also a member of the Tea Board of India, while speaking on the ‘Issues and challenges facing the tea industry in the State and the road ahead – plantation and production perspective,’ at the State Innovation and Transformation Aayog (SITA), Assam-organised two-day tea conclave here today, maintained that economic sustainability has been a challenge for the Assam tea industry for various reasons.

He argued that one of the major factors that will help in the economic sustainability of the Assam tea sector is increase in price of tea at the farm gate level. The price of tea at the farm gate level has remained stagnant over the last few years and has not been able to keep pace with the increase in cost of production.

Moreover, he maintained, economic uplift of its workforce and survival of Assam tea industry has a direct relation with the economic sustainability of Assam tea sector.

Like any other commodity, price of tea is also determined by the interaction of supply and demand. To attain demand-supply equilibrium, the State will either have to restrict tea production, or it will have to increase consumption of its tea. Demand of tea can be increased by having a two-pronged approach – increase in exports, and, increase in domestic consumption, he said.

Arguing that increase in its demand is crucial for survival of Assam’s tea sector, he suggested that the State Government, through its Tourism Department and Tea Directorate, should aggressively promote and brand ‘Assam Tea’ in domestic and international markets.

He further argued that given the cyclical nature of the tea industry, there is a need to encourage tea plantations to selectively deploy marginal areas within the tea grant lands which are not suitable for tea cultivation for alternative economic activity such as black pepper, floriculture, horticulture, fisheries, etc., and for the purpose appropriate amendments to Assam Land Use Laws may be necessary.

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