Addressing the annual general meeting of the Assam branch of the Tea Association of India (TAI) at Tezpur recently, Mr D. P. Maheswari, President of TAI, attributed the drop to crop loss of about 15 mkg so far in the Assam Valley alone, largely due to the incessant rain followed by pest attacks.
In some gardens, the crop loss was as high as 25 to 30 per cent, he said, pointing out that the gardens in the Barak Valley also suffered a loss of over 2 mkg.
While the gardens in West Bengal's Dooars and Terai regions recorded a marginal rise so far, the production in South India's gardens also was much behind than that of last year.
The marginal improvement in exports to 143 mkg till September, compared with 136 mkg in the same period a year ago was largely due to the improved performance by South Indian gardens, as exports by North Indian gardens remained more or less the same due to the crop loss.
He, however, regretted that the average price realisation from exports was far from encouraging, presumably because Kenya and Sri Lanka, the two other major suppliers , recorded a substantial improvement in production.
Referring to a hefty 80 per cent increase in land rent on tea gardens by the Assam Government in 2008 and that too with retrospective effect from 2003, Mr Maheswari appealed to the State Government to reconsider the decision.
The Government could not implement the decision as yet due to the court order, he said, emphasising that the Government should not only desist from enforcing the increased the rates retrospectively, but also reduce the extent of increase.
He also criticised the Assam Pollution Control Board's decision to “arbitrarily” increase its fees, as applicable to tea industry, nearly 10 times.
The TAI President expressed concern over the law and order situation in the State, and particularly referred to the sporadic incidents of abduction and killing of tea garden employees.
Most gardens, therefore, were required to incur substantial cost to provide security to their employees, by engaging private security agencies recognised by the Government.
“We therefore pray to the Government to either fool proof security for our garden employees or reimburse of our cost on this account,” he observed.