Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Centre mulls package for plantation sector

The Centre is planning to come out with a fiscal package for the plantation sector. The package, among other things, may come to the aid of the tea industry to meet its “high social cost” and “debt relief package” especially for the coffee growers.

Talking to newspersons here on Wednesday on the sidelines of a meeting organised by the city-based Bharat Chamber of Commerce, the Union Minister of State for Commerce, Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia, said, “Social cost is a major issue with the tea industry. The Government is taking this matter very seriously and we are going to come out with a package for tea industry shortly.”

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The Minister also alluded to the need for debt relief for the small and medium coffee growers.

“A detailed note is being forwarded to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for offering relief to the plantation sector,” Mr Scindia said. The proposed relief to the tea sector would be in addition to the Special Purpose Tea Fund (SPTF) for re-plantations and rejuvenation of tea plantations.

Social cost includes all the basic amenities which are provided to labours by the plantation owners. According to sources in Indian Tea Association (ITA), social cost adds approximately Rs 7 a kg in the production cost of tea.

The Minister also urged the tea industry to improve the quality of the tea and focus more on exporting the orthodox variety of tea rather than CTC (crushed tear and curl).

“The world market for tea is of the orthodox variety. However, we export mostly the CTC variety. We should look to reorganise our tea export basket. There is also a need to focus on value-added products like the tea-bags,” Mr Scindia said.

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