Cut gas price, bring it under GST: Tea industry tells govt

Guwahati: Unusual surge in natural gas price during Covid time has dealt a body blow to Assam’s tea industry, which has already been affected by excess rainfall this year.
The per scum price of natural gas, supplied to tea gardens, has gone up by four times during the last 10 months, resulting in an increase in the cost of production (CoP) of made tea by Rs 6 to Rs 8 per kg. Gas is used as fuel in the withering and drying of tea leaves during processing.

“Abnormal surge in natural gas price has become detrimental for the tea industry. This time, the industry has been hit hard by the multifold increase in gas prices. With such increase in costs, if the prices of tea at the farm gate level does not increase then the survival will be at stake,” chairman of North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), Kamal Jalan, said on Sunday.

In the last 10 months, from July 2021 to April 2022, the price of natural gas has shot up from Rs 5,085 to Rs 21,119 for per 1000 scum. About 50% of the tea factories in Assam have natural gas connections, whereas the rest are operated by coal. In Assam’s vast tea belt spread across Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Jorhat and parts of Golaghat district in Upper Assam, almost all tea gardens are dependent on gas.

“It is our earnest appeal to the government to take a serious note on this issue with immediate steps to curb the price of natural gas,” said Jalan. NETA also appealed to the Union government to bring natural gas under the ambit of GST for long-term sustainability of the tea industry.

“Tea production was much lower in 2020 due to the exceptional situation triggered by Covid-19 but it improved last year. Yet, in 2021, production was less than normal due to the drought-like situation. Contrary to this, this year, continuous rain and less sunshine had an adverse impact,” said leading tea planter from Upper Assam, Bidyananda Barkakoty.