JORHAT, Feb 25 � Highlighting the challenges faced by the State�s tea industry due to the adverse weather condition, labour-shortage and many other factors, representatives of noted tea planters� associations and farmers here sought solutions from the scientists and the government to overcome the conditions, which are causing decreased productivity and profitability in most of the 850 tea gardens in the State.
As the region�s 90-year weather data shows a decline in rainfall by up to 200 millimetre, Jorhat-based Tocklai Tea Research Institute (TTRI) Director Dr N Muraleedharan also expressed his concern and wanted scientific solutions to mitigate the challenges.
At a seminar at the ongoing Assam International Trade and Industrial Fair here, representatives of the Assam Tea Planters� Association (ATPA), North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) and senior scientists said that apart from the adverse weather condition, shortage of manpower is also causing serious problems during the �peak season� of plucking and cultivation, as workers of most of gardens are getting themselves engaged in MGNREGA works near the gardens.
�We will request the authorities to engage our workers only in the �off season� of garden activities. Last year, some of the gardens witnessed only 30 percent presence of labourers even in the peak season of plucking, which caused serious problems in quality tea production,� said Manoj Jallan, former chairman of NETA.
Pointing out consequences of declining rainfall, Jallan said, �As of now we have hardly come across any fruitful solution to the challenges caused by climate change. We are looking for solutions from our scientists.�
Narrating various problems of planters, noted tea planter and vice-chairman of the Tea Research Association (TRA), Prabhat Kumar Bezboruah also highlighted the challenges faced by the State tea industry in marketing the produce.
As the rainfall deficit causes problems like low productivity and damage of green leaf by insects, Dr Muraleedharan informed that TRA scientists have invented bio-fertilizers and insecticides to supplement plants as well as destroy insects without using any chemical composition prohibited by the Tea Board�s Plant Protection Code.
According to him, long rainless period leads to decline in production by up to 20-30 percent in the State and increases hazardous insects in the gardens. However, following the Tea Board�s strict guidelines to make the cup of tea healthier, several growers in the State resorted to application of microbial bio-cites and bio-fertilization techniques in their gardens, which were developed and prescribed by the TRA to reduce the level of chemical in plantation and protection of green leaves.
The organic application of microbial, like trichoderma, has given better result in controlling serious fungal diseases like poria branch cancer, charcoal stump rot and brown root rot, which causes major problems for the tea growers in the State.
To promote the tea industry, ATPA chairman Raj Barooah opined that tea-specialty will help in promoting the industry in future. Along with the noted planters and scientific experts, several other dignitaries attended the seminar, which was presided over by former ATPA chairman Abhijit Sarma.