A one-day Small Tea Growers' convention cum workshop for Small Tea Growers of Assam was organized by Tea Board of India at Tezpur University on 28th April, 2012. The Hon'ble Chief Minister of Assam, Shri Tarun Gogoi graced the programme as Chief Guest, while Hon'ble Union Minister of DoNer and Parliamentary Affairs Shri Paban Singh Ghatowar & Shri M.G.V.K Bhanu, IAS, Chairman, Tea Board, graced the occasion as Guests of Honour. Shri Bhima Nanda Tanti, Deputy Speaker, Assam Legislative Assembly, and Smt. Ranee Narah, Hon'ble Member of Parliament, were also present at the programme.
The main aims of the programme were to increase productivity & quality of tea in the small tea growers sector by focusing on technology transfer for improving field productivity, improvement of awareness level of quality of green tea leaves, reduction of cost of cultivation and minimum residual levels of pesticides in the end product.
The programme was inaugurated by Hon'ble Chief Minister of Assam, Shri Tarun Gogoi. About 1200 Small Tea Growers from different parts of Assam participated in the convention cum workshop. Successful and progressive Self help Group members of Tea Growers were also present and shared their experiences during the programme.
Addressing the function, Hon'ble Chief Minister of Assam, Shri Tarun Gogoi, laid stress on the small tea growers maintaining quality of their produce for better remunerative price and to face stiff competition from the big tea industries. The Chief Minister also said that the Government would constitute a committee to look into the major issues concerning the small tea growers. He also assured that the Government would do everything possible for solving the problems of small tea growers and would provide them land patta, transport subsidy and other incentives, and skilled development training to increase capacity building for their overall growth and development.
Speaking on the occasion, Hon'ble Union Minister for DoNER, Shri Paban Singh Ghatowar also exhorted the small tea growers to maintain quality of their produce to get maximum remunerative price. The Union Minister requested the State Government to regularise the land patta of the small tea growers to allay the apprehensions from their minds. The DoNER Minister, while urging the Tea Board to set up a welfare fund for the labourers working in the small tea gardens, asked the owners of the small tea gardens to ensure minimum wages to the labourers.
The Tea Board has accorded priority to the growth of the small tea growers as they have contributed significantly to the development of the tea industry as a whole, the Chairman, Tea Board, informed. Out of nearly 1,000 million kg tea produced in the country annually, 25 per cent is contributed by the small tea growers and that is quite significant. In Kenya, small tea growers account for 70 per cent, while in Sri Lanka it is 10 per cent. The new gardens emerging in India is due to the small tea growers, he added.
The Chairman also said that the initiative of the Tea Board to issue smart cards to small tea growers, starting with Sonitpur district, would help in finding out the exact number of small tea growers in Assam. The smart card holders would get a number of benefits. The entire process of registration of small tea growers across the State would take six to seven months. He said the Board would conduct a study in five districts of Assam and two in West Bengal on how to link up the small tea growers with the big tea factories in an organised and systematic way.
The Chairman further said that in case of big garden with factory, deterrent action would be taken against those who do not display the actual price of auctioned tea as per the Tea Marketing Control Order. He announced that an office for the small tea growers would come up in Dibrugarh in September this year.
The Post-lunch session was mainly on the technical issues. Dr. Gautam Saikia of Assam Agricultural University, Dr. M.Taparia, Retd. Professor, AAU, Jorhat and Dr. B.P. Barua of TRA, Jorhat, took part in this session. They discussed issues like Plucking and Tipping, Pruning & Young Tea Management and Leaf Handling and Transportation of green leaf of small Tea Growers. Shri R.Ambalavanan, IA & AS, Executive Director, Coonoor, highlighted on the Small Tea Growers scenario in South India. Shri R. Saini, Executive Director, Guwahati, highlighted on the recent initiatives for small tea growers in the North East. Shri Cheniram Khanikar, Shri Naba Gogoi and Shri Amiya Bhattacharyya highlighted on the benefits of SHGs in the present scenario of Small Tea Growers of Assam. Shri Gangadhar Saikia, pioneer in the formation of small tea growers association of Assam, and Shri J.Jhon, Project Director, CEC, took part in the convention. Various high officials of Assam, including the Principal Secretary, Department of Industry, Govt of Assam, attended the convention.