tea: Bengal and Assam tea sector estimated a loss of Rs 2,100 crore due to lockdown

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SILIGURI: Indian tea sector has estimated loss of Rs 2,100 crore in Assam and Bengal due to lockdown. This is based on the price recovered in 2019 North India tea auctions. These two north Indian tea producing states contribute over 80% to India’s national yield. The plantation sector has requested government for a multidirectional financial package to come out of the crisis.

“In Assam and West Bengal, total loss in production for the months of March-April and May would be around 140 million kgs. This would entail a loss in revenue of more than Rs 2,100 crore based on last year’s North India auction prices,” states an official release issued by Indian Tea Association(ITA). As the premium organization of Indian planters estimated, production in Assam and West Bengal has declined by 65% during March-April and 50% during May.

“March-April gives fresh, high quality and high priced output after wintertime bush maintenance and no plucking period. Eventually is too important for a plantation. Deployment of workforce much below normal strength for a long period during this time as per Govt mandate has resulted in deep operational problems posing serious challenge,” said P. K Bhattacharya, Secretary General, Tea Association of India (TAI).

“After no production for three weeks following onset of lockdown on the 24th March, Tea estates in Assam and West Bengal resumed operation from mid April, with very marginal workforce. But plucking could not be resumed immediately as the bushes, untouched for three weeks, had to be prepared again” said veteran planter M. Bansal.

Overall, “The lockdown has come as a million pound blow to the viability of this green beverage industry,” said Bhattacharya.

The industry has urged the Union Commerce Ministry as well as the State Governments of Assam and West Bengal for a financial package in terms of Interest subvention, Enhancement of working capital limit, Relief in payment of Electricity charges or payment Provident Fund dues etc. “We are highly optimistic of positive response from the Government on this,” said senior officials in both ITA or TAI.

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