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Kolkata: Fulfilling a long-pending demand of small tea growers (STG), the Tea Board of India has embarked on a plantation development drive for them, aimed at increasing productivity and quality of the brew, while also helping them move up the value chain.
The proposed promotional schemes that have been are chalked out to make STGs self-reliant include financial aid and subsidies for setting up tea factories and enabling mechanisation along with hands-on training and expert workshops, assistance to self-help groups (SHG), farmer-producer organisations, in the next five years.
STGs – who own tea-producing land up to 10.12 hectare – now produce over 50% of the beverage in India. “Hence it’s high time that the Tea Board took cognizance of their contribution. However, generic promotion of tea would have benefited all growers – large and small,” said Prabhat Kamal Bezboruah, the chairman of the Tea Board.
On November 12, the Centre has approved the modalities and guidelines of “Tea Development & Promotion Scheme” for implementation during the 15th Finance Commission 2021-26, with a financial outlay of Rs 967.8 crore.
Reacting to the development, Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty, the president of top STG body Cista, told TOI: “This is the first time in Indian tea history, the Tea Board has launched a plantation drive for STGs. We had demanded a separate scheme for STGs, and the Centre has approved it. We are happy, but the sanction of funds by the Union government is the key point. We have to see that schemes should be implemented at the grassroots, not on paper.”
According to the scheme, collectivising the STGs, especially small and marginal farmers, into producer organisations and producer companies has emerged as one of the most effective ways to address the many challenges faced by the sector. “It would give an improved access to investments, technology, inputs and markets through efficient, cost-effective and sustainable resource use and realise higher returns for their produce.”
The scheme has found a need for undertaking more field-oriented training programmes for the small growers, while making available a team of qualified advisors to address their needs on a continuous basis to fill their significant skill gaps.
“In addition to technical training, small growers and SHGs will be provided extensive training on group formation, basic accounting, book-keeping, office management, office automation, leadership skills, demonstration pruning, tea tasting, tea branding and packaging. Such training will be imparted through tie-ups with training through reputed institutes and resource persons,” it adds.