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Small tea growers get raw deal

By Staff correspondent

DIBRUGARH, Oct 19 � Amidst escalating cost of production and high cost of living, the toil and sweat of over a lakh small tea growers across the State is being measured in throw away prices by the tea barons owning tea factories. The tea manufacturers particularly in upper Assam districts have allegedly made the green gold of Assam a cheap commodity.

The small tea growers are made to surender their produce to the manufacturers for Rs 3 to Rs 10 for one kilogramme of green tea leaves. The sudden drop in the price of the green tea leaves by the manufacturers has caused resentment among the small tea growers in the State. Tons of green tea leaves getting thrown away on roadsides in the last few days in the State is testimony to the growing frustration and anger among the tea growers.

�We have thrown away about 9 lakh kilogrammes of green tea leaves in the last few days to express our anger,� Ashwini Baruah, president, All Assam Small Tea Growers Association (AASTGA) told this newspaper. He said that the bought leaf tea factories are running a monopoly market, where small tea growers have no say. �Although as per Tea Board rules (Tea Marketing Control Order) the price share ratio between growers and manufacturers have to be 65:35, the manufacturers have never implemented this guideline. The bought leaf tea factories have violated the TMCO rules ever since it was passed in 2003,� president of the small tea grower�s body said.

It needs to be mentioned here that manufacturers fix the price of green tea leaves before selling off the manufactured tea. The mass exploitation of the small tea growers by the manufacturers with regard to price is due to the lax administration of the Tea Board, according to Hemanta Gohain, former general secretary, AASTGA. Gohain said that Tea Board has never made an effort to strictly enforce the TMCO for fixation of price of green tea leaves payable to the small tea growers. �When the present cost of production is Rs 12 for one kilogramme of green tea leaves, how can small tea growers accept anything below the cost of production,� he questioned. Moreover, the average price of tea at the auction centre is about Rs 118, Gohain said.

The small tea growers who supply their produce through agents are the worst hit. The agents deduct at least Rs 2 from the price of every kilogramme of leaves from the suppliers, which means if a factory gives Rs 5 a kg, the grower would receive only Rs 3. These agency system operates in three different tiers from factory to field. There are primary agents, middle rung agents and field agents. This unregulated agency system is another problem for the small tea growers who deduct huge amounts for themselves.

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Small tea growers get raw deal

DIBRUGARH, Oct 19 � Amidst escalating cost of production and high cost of living, the toil and sweat of over a lakh small tea growers across the State is being measured in throw away prices by the tea barons owning tea factories. The tea manufacturers particularly in upper Assam districts have allegedly made the green gold of Assam a cheap commodity.

The small tea growers are made to surender their produce to the manufacturers for Rs 3 to Rs 10 for one kilogramme of green tea leaves. The sudden drop in the price of the green tea leaves by the manufacturers has caused resentment among the small tea growers in the State. Tons of green tea leaves getting thrown away on roadsides in the last few days in the State is testimony to the growing frustration and anger among the tea growers.

�We have thrown away about 9 lakh kilogrammes of green tea leaves in the last few days to express our anger,� Ashwini Baruah, president, All Assam Small Tea Growers Association (AASTGA) told this newspaper. He said that the bought leaf tea factories are running a monopoly market, where small tea growers have no say. �Although as per Tea Board rules (Tea Marketing Control Order) the price share ratio between growers and manufacturers have to be 65:35, the manufacturers have never implemented this guideline. The bought leaf tea factories have violated the TMCO rules ever since it was passed in 2003,� president of the small tea grower�s body said.

It needs to be mentioned here that manufacturers fix the price of green tea leaves before selling off the manufactured tea. The mass exploitation of the small tea growers by the manufacturers with regard to price is due to the lax administration of the Tea Board, according to Hemanta Gohain, former general secretary, AASTGA. Gohain said that Tea Board has never made an effort to strictly enforce the TMCO for fixation of price of green tea leaves payable to the small tea growers. �When the present cost of production is Rs 12 for one kilogramme of green tea leaves, how can small tea growers accept anything below the cost of production,� he questioned. Moreover, the average price of tea at the auction centre is about Rs 118, Gohain said.

The small tea growers who supply their produce through agents are the worst hit. The agents deduct at least Rs 2 from the price of every kilogramme of leaves from the suppliers, which means if a factory gives Rs 5 a kg, the grower would receive only Rs 3. These agency system operates in three different tiers from factory to field. There are primary agents, middle rung agents and field agents. This unregulated agency system is another problem for the small tea growers who deduct huge amounts for themselves.