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Small tea growers threaten stir for fair price

By Staff Correspondent

DIBRUGARH, Oct 15 � Thousands of small tea growers feel betrayed due to the perceived unholy pact between the district authorities, Tea Board, Small Tea Growers� Development Directorate and bought leaf tea manufacturer�s association.

The small tea growers in the district have alleged that tea factories were defying the laid down price sharing norms in paying fair prices to the growers. �A grower is compelled to receive between Rs 6 to Rs 10 for per kilogram of green tea leaves when the actual price according to Tea Board�s Tea Marketing Control Order (TMCO) for the month of August and September was declared above Rs 18 in the district here, said Durgeswar Neog, district president of All Assam Small Tea Growers� Association (AASTGA).

The district level price monitoring committee, headed by the Deputy Commissioner, is practically a farce as it has failed to implement (TMCO) to ensure fair price for the small tea growers. The district level price monitoring committee consists of members from Tea Board, Small Tea Growers� Development Directorate and all tea related organisations. �The price monitoring committees appear to be mere eyewash to hoodwink the gullible farmers. The committee has totally failed in its role,� said AASTGA district president. There are about 30,000 small tea growers in the district here, according to the small tea growers� body.

The small tea growers� body today said that non compliance of TMCO rules by tea manufacturing factories would provoke the farmers to take to streets. AASTGA central president Ashwini Baruah today said that all district units of the small tea growers� body were directed to hold protest programmes in their respective districts.

The district unit of the small tea growers in the district here submitted a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner, apprising about the prevailing situation due to the defiance of TMCO guidelines by the tea factories. The small tea growers have said that the district administration must act or face agitation. Tinsukia district unit of AASTGA also submitted a similar memorandum to their Deputy Commissioner after staging demonstration.

Most of the tea factories in the region have refused to accept green tea leaves after 11 am, citing poor quality and constraint in capacity as the reason for refusal. �In most cases, if the supplier agrees to surrender the green tea leaves for a throw away price, the tea factory managements accept the bulk and the capacity is not an issue then,� Neog told this correspondent. The leaders of small tea growers� body also believe that there is an understanding between the suppliers and the tea factory owners to deny fair price to the growers.

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