As the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman remained totally silent over the tea industry in her Budget speech, the sector operators are frustrated and the observers of the industry surprised.
According to the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA)’s principal advisor S. Mukherjee, the tea sector was probably the only industrial segment which was not spared even a word as regards to any industry stimulation package or subsidy.
He pointed out that even the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Commerce & Industry for a one- time package for the revival of the tea sector in Darjeeling was also ignored.
According to the director (operations & plantations) of Chamong Tea, Indranil Ghosh, to his surprise the long-standing demand of the planters, especially those from the Darjeeling, Terai and Dooars region, was that the Union government should impose a very high important duty on tea from Nepal in order to protect the planters in the region.
“A number of bought-leaf factories are importing tea from Nepal and selling them in the market. This is possible because the production cost of tea in Nepal is one-third of that in India. However, this issue was not at all addressed in the Budget speech on Wednesday,” said Ghosh.
According to veteran tea industry observer Nandini Goswami, another long-standing demand from the sector was that the Union government should implement an effective police mechanism to restrict circulation of spurious Darjeeling tea in the market. “However, to my surprise the Budget speech was totally silent on this issue,” she said.
She also pointed out the ultimate effect of the ailing nature of the Indian tea sector on the plantation workers, especially those associated with the smaller tea gardens.
“There had been a long-standing demand for giving the small planters the status of agricultural farmers and the status of agricultural workers for the workers employed in smaller tea gardens. Unfortunately, this issue also found no mention in the Budget speech,” said Goswami.