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COVID-19: Assam tea planters stare at Rs 1,218 crore loss

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WorldIndiaConfirmed11,933Deaths392Confirmed1,976,192Deaths125,985Guwahati: Following the COVID-19 pandemic, tea planters body estimates Assam has suffered losses to the tune of Rs 1,218 crore.

North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) stated that based on the guidelines of the circular dated 3rd April of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which said the “tea industry, including plantation with maximum of 50% workers” has been exempted from the purview of the lockdown, the District Magistrates of almost all the tea growing districts of Assam have allowed resumption of tea garden operations by maintaining all Covid-19 safety protocols. Therefore, it is expected that normal tea production operations will start from 15th April in Assam.

NETA added that tea plantation in Assam is seasonal in nature. After an unproductive off-season gap of almost three months, the new tea season had barely started around the second week of March. The tea gardens had to close down from 22nd March due to COVID-19 related issues and the subsequent National lockdown. Therefore, we have lost almost the entire crop of March 2020 which is estimated to be about 30 million kgs. As per Tea Board of India figures, the harvesting of tea in Assam in March 2019 was 4.6% of Assam’s annual production in 2019 (Jan to Dec) which was 715.79 million kgs.

Bidyananda Barkakoty, adviser, NETA, said, “Due to prolonged lockdown, about 35% of our plantations will have to be skiffed (removal of overgrown tea leaves). Skiffing operation will add to extra costs and will require two to three weeks for recovery to bring the tea bushes into a pluckable condition. Due to this skiffing operation, there will be crop loss in April and May. In Assam, in the month of April 2019, 6.3% of annual crop was harvested. Considering the fact that the plucking operations will start from 15th April and taking into account the crop loss due to skiffing, the total crop loss for the month of April would be about 30 million kgs”.

He added, “The skiffed areas would continue to lose crop in May until their full recovery. The crop of Assam in May 2019 was 9.3% of annual crop. The estimated crop loss for May would be about 20 million kgs. The total estimated crop loss of Assam tea industry due to lockdown is about 80 million kgs. As per the Tea Board of India official figures, the annual average price of tea of North India (which includes Assam) at the Indian auctions in 2019 was Rs 152.26 per kg. The total revenue loss of Assam tea industry due to lockdown = 80 million kgs × Rs 152.26 per kg = Rs 1,218 crore.”

NETA stated that Tea industry is highly labour intensive. Tea industry is one of the largest employers in the organised sector in India. About 50% of the total workforce are women. There is no tradition of laying-off workers in the 197 years old Assam tea industry, unlike other industries. “In view of this revenue loss of the already ailing tea industry, we solicit Government’s kind consideration in evolving measures to mitigate this revenue loss”.


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