Assam tea
File photo Credit: Representational Image

The Assam government on Friday announced four new schemes to boost the state’s tea industry, which has taken a severe hit because of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19)-induced lockdown restrictions.

Due to lockdown, which was enforced from end-March because of the viral outbreak, around 800 tea gardens in Assam had remained closed.

Tea production until August is estimated to have dropped by around 25%, as compared to the corresponding period last year.

Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who announced the schemes, hoped that the initiatives would help the tea industry in the state to recover. The new schemes will cost the state exchequer around Rs 200 crore.

“If any tea garden has taken a working capital loan from a commercial bank, the Assam government will pay 3% of the interest on the borrowed sum. The maximum cap on the subsidy will be Rs 20 lakh for each tea garden per year,” Sarma said.

The state government will pay a tea garden a subsidy of Rs 7 per kg to grow orthodox tea in a bid to promote production and export of this variant. This incentive will be over and above the Rs 3 per kg of tea to be paid by the Tea Board of India (TBI).

“The state government will also provide a 25% subsidy to procure plants and machineries to grow orthodox tea,” Sarma added.

The state government has also announced an agriculture income tax holiday to tea gardens for three years.

“We hope tea gardens will give a 20% bonus for the upcoming Durga Puja to all their workers following the state government’s announcements of the new schemes. Employees of gardens under the Assam Tea Corporation, a state government undertaking, have been assured of a 20% bonus,” Sarma said.

TBI data showed that Assam produced 223 million kg of tea between January and July this year, as compared to 274 million kg during the same period last year.

Assam’s industries and commerce minister Chandra Mohan Patowary earlier said that the tea industry has suffered a loss of Rs 500 crore during the lockdown, induced by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2019, Assam produced 715.49 million kg of tea, which was around 52% of India’s total tea production of 1389.70 million kg. But due to the lockdown, the production figure is expected to dip by 32 million kg, which translates to losses of more than Rs 500 crore.

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