DIBRUGARH, Sept 20 - In spite of the fact that the gas supply to the tea manufacturing factories has been restored following the recent intervention of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the reduced price of green tea leaves has not been hiked to the minimum bench mark price yet.
The small tea growers have alleged blatant exploitation by the Tata-owned tea estates and some bought leaf tea factories of Upper Assam.
Rohit Borgohain, general secretary of the All Assam Small Tea Growers� Association (AASTGA) said that the tea manufacturing factories were quick in bringing down the price of green tea leaves earlier, on the logic that gas supply to the factories was irregular and that the use of alternate fuel had enhanced the cost of tea manufacturing process. But now, that the gas supply has been restored, the factories collecting green tea leaves from the small tea growers have refused to offer the minimum price agreed upon, he said.
�The cost of production of onekilogram of green tea leaves is between Rs 12 to Rs 14. All the same, Tata Company is paying mere Rs 10 for per kilogram of green tea leaves while some other factories are paying between Rs 10 to Rs 13. As per the price sharing formula of the Tea Marketing Control Order (TMCO), 2015 based on the market price of the processed tea, the Minimum Bench Mark price of green tea leaves per kg has been fixed above Rs 17 for Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sivasagar and above Rs 18 for Golaghat district. But the tea manufacturing units are fixing prices according to their whims and fancies and in violation of all established rules,� said Borgohain.
The small tea growers� leader has also alleged that certain tea estates and bought leaf tea factories of Naharkatia and Tingkhong areas have forced suppliers of green tea leaves to sign an agreement to keep on supplying green tea leaves to the factories irrespective of what price they are offered in exchange.
The AASTGA has said that the Tata group and the bought tea factories have defied the directives of the district administration, the State government as also the TMCO rules of the Tea Board. �The tea manufacturers have continued to exploit Assam�s poor farmers on the price matters time and again. The exploitation may be a tacit game plan to discourage the small tea growers who have been taking up tea plantations on their own for economic stability in the rural areas. The small tea growers, particularly in Upper Assam are deeply hurt and angered by the exploitation. The authorities concerned must intervene as this high handedness of the tea factories might snowball into a law and order problem around Durga puja festival,� said Borgohain.