Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters on Saturday that his government was mulling providing tea to ration card holders at Rs 100-150 per kg from 2024 onwards
The Assam government is actively considering a proposal to make available tea at a subsidized rate to all ration card holders at a time when the plantation industry is celebrating a crucial milestone of 200 years of its existence in the state.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters on Saturday that his government was mulling providing tea to ration card holders at Rs 100-150 per kg from 2024 onwards.
Assam produces nearly 700 million kg of tea annually and accounts for around half of India's overall tea production. The state also generates annual foreign exchange earnings estimated at an equivalent to Rs 3,000 crore. India as a whole contributes 23-24 per cent to the global tea output.
Tea estates around plantations in the state's upper reaches first came to be established way back in 1823.
Renowned globally for its richly coloured and aromatic tea, Assam's tea industry, which is the country's largest, provides livelihoods to millions with many others directly or indirectly dependent on the plantations. The state is famed for both Orthodox as well as the CTC (Crush, Tear, Curl) varieties of tea.
The tea industry in Assam was earlier dominated by large-sized gardens operated by corporates, with now small players joined in.
Tea plantation in Assam has come a full circle as thousands of small farmers have taken to growing the crop, primarily shifting from paddy. The tea plantation business has seen unemployed youths taking up tea cultivation as a business venture. Some even cultivate it in their backyards too, while many have started their tea stories through startups.
But everything is not ideal, and the industry continues to operate with several perennial issues. For several years now, India's tea industry has been struggling with issues such as rising production costs, relatively stagnant consumption, subdued prices and crop losses due to climate change. It also faces the challenge of finding a footing and holding its ground in a competitive global market.
In August this year, the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led Assam government raised the daily wage for tea garden workers by Rs 27, over and above other benefits they are entitled to.
Post the revision, tea workers in Assam's Barak valley are now getting Rs 210 per day and for that of Brahmaputra valley at Rs 232. Just ahead of State elections in 2021, the BJP government in Assam had hiked the wage rate by Rs 38.