DIBRUGARH, July 16 - Failure to control the tea manufacturers both in the organised and unorganised sectors on the part of the Central Government and Tea Board is like giving the manufacturers a free hand in determining the price of green tea leaves as per their whims and fancies, alleged Rohit Borgohain, former general secretary of All Assam Small Tea Growers� Association (ASTGA).
The small tea growers� body said that even after 31 years of the existence of small tea growers, whose total share of green tea leaf production in the country has now swelled to nearly 40%, have never been supported by a minimum support price. In a press statement, Borgohain said that the small tea growers are at the mercy of the tea factory owners.
�The manufacturing units which partly or wholly purchase green tea leaves from the small tea growers do not follow any norms in fixing the prices of green tea leaves. For a major period of the harvesting season, the growers are given a price, which is much below the cost of production. The manufacturers do anything they want in the tea industry. This exploitation by the manufacturers is standing as an impediment in improving the small plantations and paying higher wages to the engaged workers.
In the absence of minimum support price, the small tea growers who have generated jobs for about 3,59,000 workers in their small holdings are finding it tough to pay the required minimum wage to their workers,� said Borgohain. . The small tea growers have demanded that the Government and the concerned Tea Board must fix the minimum support price for green tea leaves for the survival of both the growers and their workers.
Implementation of the notified minimum wage of Rs 244.36 for the workers will be impossible if the minimum support price for green tea leaf is not fixed. The Government must also make a comprehensive study by initiating a pan Assam survey taking into consideration various dynamics of the unorganised sector like its output, cost of production, price and sustainability elements before fixing wages.
Besides, the Government and the Tea Board ought to come up with some concrete and sustainable policy for the growth and improvement of the small tea growers,� said Borgohain.