Coimbatore | Expressing serious concern over nosediving tea prices to unsustainable levels, a consultative meeting of stakeholders in the tea industry today urged the Centre to immediately reconstitute the Tea Board and appoint a full time Chairman.
The meeting, attended by representatives of producers, small growers and workers of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, expressed grave concern on the current price levels, which would push the industry to deep crisis affecting 3.65 lakh workers, 70,000 small growers and their families in these states.
Briefing reporters on the deliberations of the meeting, Vijayan Rajes, President, United Planters’ Association of Southern India (UPASI) said as against the cost of production of Rs 105 to Rs 125, depending on the yield, tea was sold at Rs 85 per kg, putting heavy financial burden on the producers.
If a full time chairman was appointed, the board can take the problems to the Centre to find a solution and clear the huge amount due to the producers under various schemes pending for the last two and a half years, he said.
Seeking to do away with the plantation tax of Rs 700 per hectare and land tax at Rs 500 per hectare levied by Kerala government immediately or at least bring in three year moratorium period, the meeting wanted to bring down lease rental, to be revised to Rs 1,300 per hectare by Kerala, to previous levels of Rs 3.70 to Rs 12.35 per hectare.
Value Added Tax for the estate be brought down from five to one per cent as being levied on bought leaf factories in Tamil Nadu, Vijayan said, adding, agricultural income Tax being levied by Karnataka and Kerala should be abolished.
The legislation brought in by Kerala to allow five per cent of the land usage for non-plantation activities be given assent immediately by the President and similar enactments should be brought in by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments, he said.
Another problem being faced by the industry was that many buyers insisted on various certifications and the government should insist the buyers not to buy the teas below the cost of production and it should be one of the clauses in the Certification.
Seeking to have a single act instead of 24 Central and State Government enactments governing the plantation industry, Vijayan Rajes said that concessional electricity tariff be prescribed for plantations not linking with other industries.
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