NEW DELHI, March 20 � Admitting that contribution of the small tea growers of the North-East is substantial, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that low level of registration with the Tea Board has limited their access to benefits and support provided by the Board.
Small tea growers have emerged as an important sector, contributing nearly one third of the country�s production of made tea. Following a study commissioned by the Tea Board in course of evaluation of the 11th Plan scheme for development of the tea sector, the level of registration of small growers with the Tea Board was found to be only around 20 per cent, thus limiting the access of small growers to the benefits and support provided by Tea Board, the Minister said.
The report has recommended increased attention to this sector, consolidation of various schemes under one umbrella scheme, relaxed eligibility norms for self-help groups and increased levels of assistance, Sitharaman informed the Lok Sabha.
Based on the evaluation study report, a separate component for small grower�s development has been duly included in the 12th Plan Schemes of the Tea Board. The Board has initiated the process of enumeration of small tea growers and has so far registered 67,992 small tea growers in the region.
A financial outlay of Rs 200 crore has been provided under the 12th Plan for the development of tea by promoting small tea growers and addressing the special needs of this sector, particularly in the area of improving production and productivity through new planting, establishing processing factories with special focus on enhancement of quality, organisational management of primary producer SHGs and entrepreneurs, besides implementation of regulatory provisions of Tea Act and its control orders, especially the price sharing formula notified under the Tea Marketing Control Orders and other measures aimed at safeguarding the quality of tea, said the Minister.
A separate directorate, headquartered at Dibrugarh with adequate field officers, has been set up for looking after the developmental needs of the small tea growers. The directorate has taken steps to enumerate small tea growers in each tea growing State and maintain a closer interface with the growers to organise themselves into producers societies. Such societies are expected to serve as focal points for the directorate�s extension activities at improving quality, consistency and price realisation, the Minister said.
During the April-January period in 2014-2015, the North-east region produced 600.82 million kg of tea, out of which the small tea growers produced 163.94 million kg, taking their share to 27.29 per cent, and showing a marginal increase during the corresponding period in 2013-2014.
In Assam, the total production in 2014-2015 (April-January) period was 573.26 million kg, of which the share of small tea growers was 150.75 million kg, which is 26.30 per cent of the total production of tea in Assam, according to the figures furnished by Sitharaman.
Meanwhile, participating in a discussion under Rule 193 in Lok Sabha on Friday on the agrarian situation in the country, Gaurav Gogoi urged the Centre to shift the tea from Commerce and Industry to Agriculture Ministry.