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The Indian Tea Association has urged the Assam government to take up with the Centre the issue of sending teas from Barak Valley to the Srimangal tea auction centre in Bangladesh.

A tea auction centre is presently operating at Srimangal in Bangladesh, which is 100 km from the town of Hailakandi in Cachar. “Teas from Cachar can easily cater to the requirements of the Srimangal auction centre,” says a White Paper on the Barak Valley tea industry brought out by the Indian Tea Association.  

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It was released at its annual general meeting at Silchar on Sunday. 

“The Assam govt is urged to take it up with the Central government for initiating bilateral discussions with the Bangladesh Government for exploring the possibility of allowing Cachar/ Tripura teas to be offered at Srimangal Auction Centre,” the white paper said.

Barak Valley comprises of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts of Assam. Barak Valley is the Southern region of Assam, with a share of around 6.5 per cent of Assam’s tea production.

The association said this would promote the tea trade between the two countries. “In case in-principle approval from the respective governments is obtained, tea producers from Cachar could work out their scale of economies and proceed for further discussions with the auction centre authorities as may be deemed necessary and approved,” it said.

India and Bangladesh teas have many common features, and Bangladesh traditionally imported Indian teas from Barak Valley, Dooars and Terai. Indian tea exports to Bangladesh, however, started to decline in 2017, when Bangladesh increased import duty from 30 per cent to 70 per cent. This subsequently rose to over 100 per cent ( inclusive of other incidental duties).

It said there is immense potential for teas from Barak Valley to service the Bangladesh market. “The tea producing areas of Cachar and Tripura are bordering Bangladesh and have easier road access to various cities of Bangladesh, thereby offering a competitive advantage in terms of logistics,” it said.

The association appreciated the need for protecting the Bangladesh tea industry as one of the key reasons behind the imposition of high import duty by Bangladesh. However, it felt that given the rising tea consumption levels, allowing the import of Indian teas would cater to the requirements of the domestic market in Bangladesh without disturbing the demand-supply equilibrium.  

It said though India makes all types of teas and there is a surplus in the domestic market accruing over the year, the Government of India has signed a preferential treaty with Sri Lanka allowing import of 15mkg at only 7.5 per cent duty as against the usual import duty of 100 per cent. A similar preferential trade agreement with Bangladesh for Cachar Teas may be explored. 

It said at present Cachar/ Tripura teas travel around 1400 km through Shillong-Guwahati-Siliguri to reach Calcutta. Considerable time and money are incurred in the process. “If Bangladesh allows its overland route for transportation of tea cargo in Indian trucks, the distance through Akhaura check post to Bongaon Petrapole would be reduced to 500 km. “Intervention of Assam govt is needed for taking up the matter with the appropriate authorities,” it said.

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