Sovon Manna, TOI, Jul 30, 2016, Kolkata: Finally, the ailing tea industry is undergoing a proper mentorship as the Tea Board India has taken up a never-seen-before initiative to audit, grade and nurture all 1,421 gardens in the country. Besides aiming at branding better-managed estates, the Board’s basic objective is to fetch more output from low-ranked gardens in future.
Elaborating the whole initiative, the chairman of the Tea Board, Santosh Sarangi, told TOI : “We have started this mammoth task of scanning and auditing infrastructure and human resource condition of as many as 1,421 gardens in India. The estates are being given grades on five to six parameters like scientific management, replantation, rejuvenation, quality agricultural practices and workers’ conditions, etc.”
The Tea Board’s pilot project on garden gradation in Assam and Nilgiri which was started two months ago is almost over. Now, the tea gardens across the country will be given scores on these parameters through which an elaborate ranking would be published in three months’ time, said Sarangi.
According to him, very few agricultural bodies have followed this tedious process of introducing a healthy competition among estates which might have a long impact on boosting the drooping morale of the tea producer. Fresh from implementing a few initiatives like pan-India e-auction and accident insurance scheme for plantation workers, the Board has devised a new software to carry out this huge data analysis.
“We will, of course, felicitate the gardens with better scores and ranks while the laggards will be given an immediate advisory to revive their condition. Our team is examining whether a tea estate is following Plant Protection Code (PPC) properly or not; how much are they doing for garden welfare; whether or not they are really committed to workers’ wellness (like regular payment of wages and provident fund),” the Board chairman explained.
According to the Board’s plan, the representatives of the gardens scoring below a certain level will be advised to visit the top-ranked estates for witnessing proper practices. Various standard quality assurance systems like ISO or HACCP will be checked in the worse-performing gardens.
S Sundarajan, director (tea development) of Tea Board, who is spearheading this unique initiative, feels that the so-called bad-performing gardens will now come under the direct supervising mechanism. “This constructive concept scale up the visibility of this garden. We have covered almost 90% of south India and half of Assam. Our data collection team will now complete north Bengal,” he said.
Indian Tea Association (ITA), the apex body of tea producers, however, wants to assess the Board’s initiative first. Arijit Raha, secretary-general, ITA, said, “The purpose of the study is not clear to us. However, I have been given to understand that higher grade gardens would be rewarded. We feel developmental schemes of the Board should apply equitably. While several good schemes exist, we have not been able to avail the benefits of schemes like Quality Upgradation Scheme critical for factory modernization due to the 20% export eligibility criteria. Our representation for review is still pending with the Board.”
Meanwhile, the Board is on the verge of completing its mock trial on the post-settlement process in pan-India e-auction with the buyers and brokers. “We are getting favourable response on new NSEIT software which will soon replace the old system,” added Sarangi.
In order to maximise its promotion of the domestic tea in the global exports market, the Tea Board will double up its presence in the upcoming World Tea & Coffee Expo (WTCE) to be held in Mumbai in 20-22 October. The Board will erect a big pavilion (double the size of the last year’s) this year in order to portray Indian tea to retailers, wholesalers, importers/exporters, chain stores, tea retail chains, F&B and spa managers, hotels, vendors/suppliers, grocers, resorts, tea & coffee houses, spices Manufacturers and allied professionals across the globe.