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GUWAHATI: The All Assam Small Tea Growers' Association (AASTGA) has urged New Delhi and Dispur to fix the MSP (Minimum Support Price) of green tea leaves at Rs 30 per kg. The association has laid stress on the production of quality tea. The small tea growers of the state had to suffer losses for the past few years due to the low prices of green leaves. The association is worried over the reports on the decline in the quality of Assam tea as felt by certain quarters in the industry.
Talking to The Sentinel, AASTGA general secretary Karuna Mahanta said, "The green leaves that small tea growers produce comprise 50 per cent of the total tea production in the state. Small tea growers are local youths. Every district has a committee headed by the deputy commissioner to monitor the prices of green tea leaves. However, such committees are not proactive. That deprives the small tea growers of remunerative prices for green leaves. We want such committees to be proactive and make sudden visits to tea factories that buy green leaves.
Even now, a few tea estates in the Lakhimpur district pay Rs 29 per kg for green leaves. However, there is no fixed rate for green leaves elsewhere in the state. While some tea estates pay Rs 20 per kg, some pay even Rs 18. If one garden can pay Rs 29 per kg for green leaves, why cannot the others? "Recently, we met Union Commerce and Industries Minister Piyush Goyal in Guwahati and Union Minister of State Anupriya Patel in New Delhi. We briefed them on our stand. We also briefed state Industries and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary on the price of green tea leaves. We urge Dispur and New Delhi to fix the MSP of green tea leaves in Assam at Rs 30 per kg. If the Chief Minister takes the initiative to this effect, the local youths engaged in this industry can get the benefits."
On the quality of tea, Karuna Mahanta said, "Recently we told the Association of Bought Tea Leaf Factories to improve the quality of 'made tea' in the state. Various quarters in the tea industry feel that the quality of 'made tea' is declining in Assam. Let the factories buy only quality leaves and produce quality tea. Our support is always with them. We requested the association to hold a workshop on producing quality green tea leaves during the lean season of tea. Production of quality tea will benefit every stakeholder of the industry – growers and factories, and even the government. We have got a positive response from the Association of Bought Leaf Factories."
The state has around 1.50 lakh small tea gardens engaging over 15 lakh local youths directly or indirectly. The state has over 300 bought leaf tea factories.