Bengal government taking steps to revive sick tea gardens

Kolkata, Sep 8 (IANS) The West Bengal government on Tuesday said it was taking steps to revive sick tea gardens in the state and was keen to promote tea tourism.

In this endeavour, a ministerial group recently held a meeting with the tea industry associations of the state.

“The West Bengal government’s group of ministers recently met members of the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations (CCPA) to discuss the health of the tea industry and how to revive it. This will also help set up a tea tourism industry,” the ruling Trinamool Congress said on its official website on Tuesday.

In a statement, the CCPA said steps have been initiated for revival of sick gardens (in north Bengal) and a bill — the West Bengal Tea Plantations Employees Welfare Fund, 2015 — has been passed which provides a corpus of Rs.100 crore to be used for providing social benefits to workers of the industry.

The government said it was willing to provide interest subventions and soft loans to mitigate various costs incurred by the estates from the Rs.100 crore.

“The West Bengal government has also been spearheading initiatives in providing assistance to workers of closed gardens through various welfare schemes covering health, income generation and skill development,” the statement said.

Stressing the need for rejuvenation of old bushes, the CCPA said that for replanting two percent of tea bushes, the average cost would be nearly Rs.4.50 per kg.

“This coupled with the associated costs of quality upgradation and modernisation of factories necessitated a net margin at least of Rs.10.50 per kg to remain sustainable,” CCPA said.

In the meeting, issues relating to tea tourism and use of land for alternate crops were also discussed.

According to the government, there are 377 tea estates in north Bengal which employs 2.64 lakh workers. Of these, 87 tea estates are in the Darjeeling hills, 188 in the Jalpaiguri plains and 102 in the Terai region. The total tea production of these estates is about 330 million kg per year.

The CCPA will be submitting an estate revival roadmap to the government soon.

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