Tea Board Pro­poses ₹ 100-cr Pack­age for Dar­jeel­ing Es­tates

The Economic Times - - Economy: Macro, Micro & More - Su­tanuka.Ghosh @times­group.com

Kolkata: The Tea Board has pro­posed a ₹ 100-crore re­lief pack­age for tea es­tates in the Dar­jeel­ing hills, where pro­duc­tion has re­sumed af­ter nearly three months of shut­down due to an ag­i­ta­tion for a sep­a­rate state. Board chair­man PK Bezbaruah said the pro­posal will be put be­fore com­merce min­is­ter Suresh Prabhu next week.

Pluck­ing and other op­er­a­tions at the 87 tea es­tates in the re­gion had come to a halt af­ter the Gorkha Jan­mukti Mor­cha’s strike call on June 9 de­mand­ing a sep­a­rate state, called Gorkha­land. The grow­ers of Dar­jeel­ing tea had sought ₹ 325 crore as as­sis­tance to prune the over­grown bushes and pre­pare for pro­duc­tion in April. But the de­mand was not ac­cepted by the board which, on ad­vice based on the Tea Re­search As­so­ci­a­tion’s sur­vey of the prob­lem, cut it to ₹ 100 crore.

“We had re­ceived from Dar­jeel­ing Tea As­so­ci­a­tion the size of the re­lief pack­age. We had then asked the Tea Re­search As­so­ci­a­tion to carry out a pack­age based on the dam­ages caused to the bushes and the es­tates in the ab­sence of pluck­ing and prun­ing for more than three months,” said Bezbaruah. “We will sub­mit the pack­age next week to the Union com­merce min­is­ter.” He stressed that fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance should be given re­vi­tal­is­ing and re­ju­ve­nat­ing the tea bushes, and not for the rev­enue loss that the com­pa­nies have in­curred. The re­lief pack­age, how­ever, has failed to bring cheer to the in­dus­try. “It should be at least about ₹ 200 crore,” sa- id a planter in Dar­jeel­ing.

San­jay Bansal, chair­man of Am­bootia Group, said, “The strike, the first time in the his­tory of Dar­jeel­ing tea in­dus­try, has wiped out al­most 70% of the an­nual tea pro­duc­tion, mak­ing all the 87 tea es­tates sick.”

Bansal said the tea bushes are over­grown and there is the prob­lem of weeds. Re­mov­ing of weeds and prun­ing of the bushes will take a few months.

Nor­mally, 20% of the tea bushes in Dar­jeel­ing are pruned ev­ery year, and in this way the en­tire area is pruned over five years. This year, how­ever, since all the tea bushes have over­grown, 100% of the tea bushes will be pruned. There­fore, there will be less pro­duc­tion of first flush and sec­ond flush teas in 2018, Bansal said.

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