Guwahati, March 25 (IANS): The Assam government has been losing a huge sum of revenue as tea growers in the four Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD), on the north bank of the Brahmaputra, are forced to sell their produce in West Bengal due to lack of proper market in the area.
Bodoland Small Tea Growers' Association secretary Pranay Basumatary Saturday said small tea growers in the four districts of Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri are forced to sell their green leaves to the markets in Jalpaiguri and Siliguri, which are closer to them since there are hardly a few leaf factories in the area.
The BTAD area or Bodoland is a territorial arrangement, which came into existence in 2003 following the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) Accord between the central government and Bodoland Liberation Tigers (BLT) militants.
Tea cultivation in BTAD areas is comparatively a new phenomenon which started after 1999. However, it is being promoted by the BTC administration since 2005 as tea cultivation proved to be one of the ways to rehabilitate the former rebels.
"The small tea growers in Assam including those in BTAD are to pay a cess of 25 paisa against per kilogram of green leaf. However, the government is losing the amount as the growers in BTAD are selling their green leaves to the factories in two neighbouring districts of north Bengal," Basumatary said.
He estimated that the about 3,000 small tea growers produce approximately 65,000 kgs of green leaves annually.
"This indicates that the Assam government is losing a huge revenue to the tune of Rs.1,625,000 annually," Basumatary said.
Besides, the state's total tea output will also increase if these 65,000 kg green leaves are sold to bought leaf factories in Assam.
"There are six bought leaf factories in Lower Assam and out of them only three are located in Kokrajhar districts However, they are not much interested in buying the leaves from small tea growers for reasons best known to them," claimed Basumatary.
Basumatary favoured setting up of more bought leaf factories in lower Assam, which would not only relieve the small tea growers in BTAD but also enrich state's exchequer.