GUWAHATI, Sept 2 � A section of officials of the Tea Board of India is alleged to be causing difficulties to some small tea growers who are taking to organic farming.
Vijay Kashyap, a small tea grower and owner of the Agnigarh Bioplantations in Sonitpur district, alleged that though his farm submitted an original application to set up an organic tea factory�to the Tezpur Tea Board office on December 10, 2013, the farm is yet to get the Board�s nod for this.
Giving a chronology of the developments following this petition, he said that the Tezpur office, after duly analysing the application, forwarded it to the Executive Director at the Jorhat regional office of the Board on January 2, 2014.
The Jorhat office sent back the entire file with certain queries to the applicant on February 19, 2014. The queries were replied to by Agnigarh Bioplantations on March 5, 2014.
The Tea Board local office at Biswanath Chariali inspected the site and the under-construction factory on May 8, 2014 and accordingly sent its report to the Jorhat Regional Office of the Tea Board in May.
The file reached the office of the Controller (Licensing) at the Tea Board Headquarters, Kolkata, in June, 2014.
Kashyap, who met the Controller, Licensing, in Kolkata on July 10, was asked as to why the plant and machinery were being installed at the factory when the licence was yet to be issued by the Board. Kashyap met the Joint Controller, Licensing, and the Controller, Licensing, on July 31 in Kolkata again.
The file is still stuck up at that office and the unit is being sought to be labelled as a bought leaf factory without any application of mind and no serious perusal of the submitted documents, alleged Kashyap.
If the organic small tea grower cannot process his own organic leaves, he will be forced to go back to inorganic practices and abandon organic conversion since no bought leaf or estate factory in the area will give him any premium on his organic tea leaves. This will be a huge step backward for the very concept of organic tea�and the brand of �India Tea� will also be a victim, Kashyap said.
He claimed that Agnigarh Bioplantations is the only small tea growing farm being converted into organic tea farming under the National Programme of Organic Production of the Government of India in the whole district of Sonitpur. Assam does�not have more than 10 units that produce organic tea measuring less than one million kg out of the total over 500 million kg of tea produced by the State, Kashyap said.