Guwahati: The Tea Association of India (TAI) has expressed concern over the pressing challenges faced in the current season by the industry in Assam and North Bengal in the wake of adverse climate conditions, subdued international and domestic markets and their profound impact on the industry.
The association, which represents tea producers in the two regions, has therefore called for collaborative action from all stakeholders to overcome the challenges faced by the industry.
“All stakeholders, including tea producers, industry leaders, retailers, government bodies and experts need to come together and collaborate to find innovative solutions. We must prioritise sustainable practices, diversify markets and develop adaptive strategies to overcome these challenges,” the association’s president Ajay Jalan said.
“By fostering an inclusive dialogue and sharing best practices, we can ensure the long-term sustainability of the tea industry and the livelihoods of those dependent on it,” Jalan said.
It may be noted that the tea industry in Assam and North Bengal is grappling with the detrimental effects of climate change.
Erratic weather patterns, extreme temperatures and insufficient rainfall have severely affected the quantity and quality of tea production.
The changing climate poses significant challenges to the sustainability and productivity of tea gardens, necessitating immediate measures to adapt and mitigate its impact.
According to official data, Assam and North Bengal account for around 80 per cent of India’s total tea production.
In addition to climate challenges, the industry is facing subdued demand in both international and domestic markets.
Factors such as the oversupply of tea in the global market and shifting consumer preferences have contributed to the weakened demand for tea from Assam and North Bengal.
“The Tea Association of India remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting and advocating for the tea industry in Assam and North Bengal. We will actively engage with government authorities, industry partners and other stakeholders to address the critical issues at hand,” TAI general secretary Prabir Bhattacharya said.
“Through focused initiatives, research and partnerships, we aim to foster a conducive environment for the growth and prosperity of the tea industry,” Bhattacharya said.
He called upon the respective state governments, policymakers, market participants and consumers to join hands in supporting the tea industry during these challenging times.
“Together, we can navigate the complexities, unlock opportunities, and build a sustainable and resilient future for Assam and North Bengal teas,” the TAI general secretary said.
For several years now, India’s tea industry has been struggling with issues such as rising input costs, relatively stagnant consumption and subdued prices. The tea business is cost-intensive, where 60-70 per cent of the total investment is fixed cost.
India’s tea sector employs around 1.2 million workers and contributes 23 per cent to the global output.
In Assam, the biggest challenge faced by the tea industry has been price stagnation, high cost of production and low productivity.
The Assam government had, earlier this year, disbursed financial incentives to the tune of Rs 64.05 crore to 370 tea gardens under the Assam Tea Industry Special Incentive Scheme 2020.
The scheme was formulated by the state government to mitigate the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tea industry.
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Apart from providing interest subvention of three per cent on working capital loans of tea gardens, the promotion of production of orthodox tea over traditional crush-tear-curl (CTC) tea has also been accorded due attention in the state.
To mark the 200th anniversary of tea production in the state, an additional Rs two per kilogram of orthodox tea has been fixed for the financial year 2023-24.
Moreover, a subsidy of 25 per cent will be provided by the government to tea gardens to set up units for orthodox tea production.
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