Advises tea industry to keep pace with the changing world

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that he would peg India's gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate in the current fiscal between 8.5 per cent and 9 per cent saying that he would like to stick to conservative estimates.

Speaking at the 127th annual general meeting of the Indian Tea Association (ITA), he said: “The IMF has projected a growth rate of 9 per cent but still I am sticking to my conservative estimates.”

He said that protectionism was not the answer to the industry's problems as globalisation will have to be taken to its logical conclusion. “Hand-holding is required to overcome a crisis but after the crisis that requirement should not be there.”

He advised the tea industry to keep pace with the changing world saying that enhanced competitiveness was the key to survival.

“We have to face the challenge of imports of teas from Sri Lanka and Vietnam,” Mr. Mukherjee said noting that they did have the advantage of lower costs and higher yields.

Earlier, ITA Chairman Aditya Khaitan had expressed concern that the Indo-ASEAN FTA (Free Trade Agreement) was a reality that would pare down import duties to 45 per cent by 2020 from 100 per cent now.

The Finance Minister, however, admitted that there were certain problems of the industry which needed to be addressed in consultation with the nodal ministry. “We will look at the problems,” he assured the gathering.

Tea Board acting-chairman Roshni Sen said that the response to the Special Purpose Tea Fund was a mixed one and replantation had increased but was still below the target. She admitted that some changes may be necessary in the scheme.

Mr. Khaitan said that India was set to end 2010 with a lower crop. He reiterated the industry demand on sharing of welfare cost. He said that Tea Board schemes needed to be continued with higher outlays.

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